Tillerson comments on nations cutting ties with Qatar

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Five Arab nations have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar for its association with Iran and its alleged accommodation of several terrorist groups. In wake of the Monday decision, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the Gulf countries to “sit down together and address their differences.”

Speaking in Sydney alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Tillerson said he did not think the diplomatic imbroglio would affect the war against ISIS.

“I think what we’re witnessing is a growing list of disbelief in the countries for some time, and they’ve bubbled up to take action in order to have those differences addressed,” Tillerson said. “We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences.”

The five nations that announced a withdrawal of their diplomatic staff from Qatar include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Saudi Arabia also said Qatari troops would be pulled from the Gulf coalition fighting the ongoing civil war in Yemen, a decision that Yemen’s internationally recognized government said it supported and would follow.

The five nations also intend to cut off air and sea traffic from Qatar, with Saudi Arabia stating that it would also close its land border with Qatar. Such actions would effectively cut off Qatar from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.

Qatar, which is home to a major U.S. military base used for the air campaign against ISIS, has appeared undeterred by the actions of its neighbors. Its ruling emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, called Iranian President Hasan Rouhani on May 27 to congratulate him on his re-election.

Fox News reported that “The call was a clear, public rebuttal of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to force Qatar to fall in line against the Shiite-ruled nation, which the Sunni kingdom sees as its number one enemy and a threat to regional stability. Qatar shares a massive offshore gas field with the Islamic Republic.”

Saudi Arabia said it made the decision to sever diplomatic ties due to Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region” including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and other groups supported by Iran.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry claimed that Qatar had taken an “antagonist approach” toward Egypt and said “all attempts to stop it from supporting terrorist groups failed.”

Later Monday, Qatar said that there was “no legitimate justification” for the Arab nations to sever diplomatic relations with them.

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