Qatar foreign minister meets with Tilllerson as Gulf crisis persists

Key Points
  • Qatar's foreign minister met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday to discuss Saudi-led efforts to isolate the country, a Qatari statement said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed to work toward seeking a resolution to a Saudi Arabia-led effort to isolate Qatar, the gulf country's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Tillerson met with Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani this week, the first meeting since the blockade began, the statement said.

"The foreign minister insisted that others must be genuinely willing to negotiate and to present evidence to support their allegations and demands," the Qatari statement said.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the U.A.E. and Egypt cut ties with Doha earlier this month, accusing the oil-rich monarchy of supporting terrorism. The four Arab states have said they would close air and sea transport links with Doha, with Riyadh recently closing its land border.

Saudi Arabia has issued demands of Qatar, including ending relations with Iran, breaking all ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and expelling all members of Hamas, according to an Al Jazeera report. It also demanded Qatar shut down broadcaster Al Jazeera, which came under a cyber attack earlier this month.

The Qatari statement said the demands were "unreasonable" and "false."

"We do not support terrorism, we do not interfere in the internal affairs of our neighbors, and we are not secret allies of Iran," al Thani said, according to the statement, which added that Qatar was committed to defeating the Islamic State, or Daesh.

The U.S. Department of State didn't have a statement about the meeting on its website. A department spokesperson referred to transcripts of recent press briefings.

In a June 20 briefing, spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Tillerson had held more than 20 calls and meetings with regional and international representatives, which included the foreign ministers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia as well as UAE leaders.

"We are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the public, nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar. The more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised," she said, adding the State Department didn't think it was necessary to provide mediation.

In a briefing on Tuesday, she added that "They're best worked out with the countries themselves."

The U.A.E.'s ambassador to Moscow, Omar Ghobash, told the Guardian that the Gulf states are considering applying more economic pressure to Qatar, potentially by telling trading partners they would need to make "a commercial choice" between Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Ghobash also said the blockade was "not going to escalate militarily," according to the report on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Tillerson met with Kuwait's Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.

Kuwait has been attempting to mediate the dispute.

"During the meeting the leaders reaffirmed the need for all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive diplomatic discussions. The Secretary urged the parties to remain open to negotiation as the best way to resolve the dispute," the U.S. State Department statement said.

The State Department's website carried a 40 second video of Tillerson's comment on the meeting, in which the Secretary took a single question about progress of the negotiations.
"We hope all the parties will continue to talk to one another in good faith," Tillerson said.

The situation may be complicated by a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month which said he supported the blockade, despite Qatar hosting a large U.S. military airfield.

Donald J. Trump: During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.