Qatar must 'end support for terror' to stop Gulf tensions

Alexei Druzhinin//Sputnik Kremlin Pool

Breaking with his secretary of state's rhetoric, Trump called Qatar a "funder of terrorism at a very high level".

Egypt and two other countries cut diplomatic ties with their neighbor, Qatar, early this week, accusing the small nation of supporting organizations they regard as terrorist, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

US officials were blindsided by Saudi Arabia's decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, current and former officials in Washington told Reuters. Qatar is the site of the largest U.S. military base in the region and the launching point of numerous U.S. Air Force bombing missions.

Mr Tillerson also said the blockade by Qatar's neighbours was "hindering USA military action in the region and the campaign against Isis".

The announcement increases pressure on Qatar in a diplomatic and economic campaign to isolate the small Gulf Arab state, which is a critical global supplier of gas and hosts the biggest USA military base in the Middle East.

Referring to the conversations that he had with leaders of the Gulf countries, Tillerson said it is clear to him based that the elements of a solution are available.

In an apparent escalation of the crisis, staff at Al Jazeera, Qatar's influential satellite television news channel which often infuriates the rulers of the Arab world, said its computer systems had come under cyber attack.

Saudi foreign minister says Gulf states can solve Qatar row alone
In a different position to Trump's hard line, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on all parties to end the crisis. A day earlier, Trump discussed the crisis with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, which is leading the anti-Qatar campaign.

The president did not limit his call for greater action against terrorism to Qatar alone but instead urged "Qatar and other nations in the region to do more to combat terrorism and do it faster".

"Despite these efforts, entities and individuals within Qatar continue to serve as a source of financial support for terrorist and violent extremist groups, particularly regional Al Qaeda affiliates such as the Nusrah Front", the State Department said. He said Qatar has historically supported groups that have "spanned the spectrum of political expression from activism to violence".

Trump spoke with the emir of Qatar on Wednesday, the White House announced, and "offered to help the parties resolve their differences", by hosting a meeting if necessary.

"While current operations from Al Udeid Air Base have not been hindered or curtailed, the evolving situation is hindering our ability to plan for longer-term military operations", said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, according to the New York Times.

Qatar has vowed to ride out the isolation imposed on it by fellow Arab states and said it would not compromise its sovereignty over foreign policy to resolve the region's biggest diplomatic crisis in years.

Government officials said the military would decide on the number of Turkish troops that would be deployed in Qatar and the length of their stay.

The US has called on the Gulf states to "de-escalate" their row with Qatar, saying it has caused unintended "humanitarian" consequences.

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