*’Qatar ready to engage but the other side has failed to respond’
*US Secretary of State begins Gulf tour on Friday
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has blamed the Saudi-led bloc that has imposed a blockade on Qatar for a lack of progress in solving the Gulf crisis. He said the standoff may not be resolved anytime soon, casting doubts on US efforts to mediate the crisis. “There seems to be a real unwillingness on the part of some of the parties to want to engage,” Tillerson said in an interview yesterday in Washington. “It’s up to the leadership of the quartet when they want to engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear – they’re ready to engage.”
Tillerson made the comment just a day before he embarks on a trip to the region, including stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in a renewed push to resolve the dispute. The crisis flared in June when Saudi Arabia and three other US allies in the region – the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain – severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar over accusations that it supports terrorist groups. Qatar denies the charges.
Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., last visited the region in July. At the time, the top US diplomat said he was hopeful that he could help resolve the dispute, which has been officially mediated by Kuwait. Tillerson’s latest remarks suggested that attitude has now changed. “I do not have a lot of expectations for it being resolved anytime soon,” Tillerson said. He declined to say which country bears the most responsibility for the lack of progress.
In September, President Donald Trump said he would be willing to serve as a mediator “right here in the White House” if the issue wasn’t solved soon. “I have a very strong feeling that it will be solved, and pretty quickly,” Trump predicted at the time. In the interview, Tillerson emphasised that the main responsibility for a way out of the crisis now rests with the countries at the centre of it.
“Our role is to try to ensure lines of communication are as open as we can help them be, that messages not be misunderstood,” Tillerson said. “We’re ready to play any role we can to bring them together but at this point it really is now up to the leadership of those countries.” Tillerson will visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland in a week-long trip starting Friday, the State Department said in a statement on Thursday.
“In Riyadh, he will take part in the inaugural Co-ordination Council meeting between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The secretary will also meet with various Saudi leaders to discuss the conflict in Yemen, the ongoing Gulf dispute, Iran, and a number of other important regional and bilateral issues. “Secretary Tillerson will then travel to Doha, where he will meet with Qatari leaders and US military officials to discuss joint counter-terrorism efforts, the ongoing Gulf dispute, and other regional and bilateral issues, including Iran and Iraq. “Secretary Tillerson will then make his inaugural visit to South Asia as Secretary of State, reaffirming the Administration’s comprehensive strategy toward the region.
“In Islamabad, the Secretary will meet with senior Pakistani leaders to discuss our continued strong bilateral cooperation, Pakistan’s critical role in the success of our South Asia strategy, and the expanding economic ties between our two countries. The Secretary will build on the positive conversations he and the Vice President have had with Prime Minister Abbasi. “In New Delhi, Secretary Tillerson will meet with senior Indian leaders to discuss further strengthening our strategic partnership and collaboration on security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. The Secretary’s visit to India will advance the ambitious agenda laid out by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi during the Prime Minister’s visit to the White House in June. “In Geneva, the Secretary will meet with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organisation for Migration, and the International Committee of the Red Cross to discuss a number of the current global humanitarian crises,” the statement added.