Trump muddles Rex Tillerson's message after he urges Gulf states to ease Qatar blockade

Key Points
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Gulf states to ease their blockade of Qatar.
  • He said the decision is having "humanitarian consequences" and hinders U.S. military efforts.
  • President Donald Trump seemed to endorse the blockade in tweets this week.
Tillerson: Countries should ease blockade vs. Qatar

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday urged Gulf states to ease their blockade of Qatar, saying it has "humanitarian consequences" and hinders the United States' military efforts.

Roughly an hour later, though, President Donald Trump heavily criticized Qatar without mentioning a need to pull back on the blockade. Trump called Qatar "a funder of terrorism at a very high level" and said nations had the choice of taking the "easy road" or the "hard but necessary action."

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and transportation links with Qatar on Monday. The nations have long criticized Qatar's support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

The U.S. expects the countries to "immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve the grievances they have with each other," Tillerson told reporters at the State Department.

On Tuesday, Trump seemed to endorse the Gulf states' action in a series of tweets. He said his talks with Saudi Arabia and other nations during his first foreign trip were "already paying off" after leaders said they would take a "hard line on funding extremism."

Trump tweet 1: So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding...

Trump added that "all reference was pointing to Qatar."

Trump continued: ...extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!

On Friday, Tillerson said the blockade has caused shortages of food, the separation of families and other "unintended consequences." He added that it hurts U.S. business activities and the U.S. effort to fight the terror group ISIS.

Qatar's Al Udeid Air Base hosts the largest U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Al Udeid is also a base for the United States Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations from Egypt to Pakistan and north through Afghanistan all the way to the border with Russia.

Tillerson called for "no further escalation by the parties in the region." But he also urged Qatar to be "responsive to the concerns of its neighbors."

The secretary of State said the emir of Qatar has made progress in curbing financial support for extremist groups, "but he must do more and he must do it more quickly."

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report

Watch: Trump says Qatar must stop funding extremist ideology

Trump: Qatar must end funding of extremist ideology