Rex Tillerson calls for ease on Qatar blockade

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Secretary of State Tillerson is urging several countries to immediately ease their blockade on Qatar, claiming it’s impeding U.S. military efforts in the fight against ISIS militant groups, as reported by The Associated Press on Friday.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain abruptly cut diplomatic ties and shut down all land, sea, and air borders with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia and the other nations cited Qatar’s relations with Iran, as well as what they say is Qatar’s support for extremist groups such as Hamas, al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The next day, President Trump took to Twitter to show his support for the blockade and said his discussions with Saudi Arabia and other countries during his first foreign trip as commander-in-chief were “already paying off” after leaders vowed they would take a “hard line on funding extremism.”

Trump then followed his first tweet up with a second, stating that “all reference was pointing to Qatar.”

However, during a short speech at the State Department Friday, Tillerson stated that Qatar needed to address its neighbor’s concerns about terrorist financing and announced the blockade has led to shortages of food, separated families, and a host of other “unintended consequences.”

“I call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar,” Tillerson said. “There are humanitarian consequences to this blockade. We’re seeing shortages of food. Families are being forcibly separated, and children pulled out of school. We believe these are unintended consequences.”

He also added the blockade is “hindering” the U.S. military operations to fight ISIS terrorist groups and is affecting U.S. and international business’ abilities in the region.

The Hill reports:

Qatar is home to the largest U.S. military base in the region. The base houses nearly 10,000 U.S. troops and is the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.

After Tillerson’s statements on Friday, the Pentagon issued a statement that the military base could suffer if the blockade continues.

“While current operations from Al Udeid Air Base have not been interrupted or curtailed, the evolving situation is hindering our ability to plan for longer-term military operations. Qatar remains critical for coalition air operations in the fight against ISIS and around the region.”

After calling for several countries to ease their blockade on Qatar, the secretary of state later said the emir of Qatar has made progress in addressing financial support for extremist groups but more must be done.

“We call on Qatar to responsive to the concerns of its neighbors,” Tillerson said. “The emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country. But he must do more and he must do it more quickly.”

Tillerson later claimed he spoke with leaders in the region in recent days, and those conversations have indicated promise that a solution is possible.

“In the last few days, I’ve spoken to many leaders in the region, and as I said to all of them, we know you are stronger together,” he said. “Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other.”

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