In an effort to end a standoff between U.S. allies, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia this week to meet with Gulf leaders.
According to U.S. State Department spokesman R.C. Hammond, Tillerson will visit several Persian Gulf capitals from Monday to Thursday and attend meetings aimed at resolving the differences remaining between Qatar and the four-nation Saudi bloc from which it has been isolated.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar, which is the world leader in liquefied natural gas exports. The alliance contends that Qatar has destabilized the region by supporting proxies of Shiite-dominant Iran and Sunni extremists. Qatar denies the charges.
The U.S. is allied with both sides. The regional headquarters for the U.S. Central Command is located in Qatar, including a state-of-the-art air base utilized by the Pentagon to target ISIS. Saudi Arabia is the top buyer of American weapons and has strong counter-terrorism ties with the U.S.
An American defense official said there has been no indication that the dispute will lead to an armed conflict, although it shows no signs of ending.
Bloomberg reported that “Qatar rejected 13 demands by the Saudi-led alliance to end the crisis, a move the allies say demonstrates its links to terrorist groups. The Saudi-led grouping pledged new political, economic and legal measures against the Gulf nation.”
Demands rejected by Qatar include scaling back with Iran—Saudi Arabia’s main rival in the region, severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and shutting down the Al Jazeera media network that has provoked governments throughout the Middle East.
Central bank Governor Sheikh Abdullah bin Saoud Al Thani said that Qatar has enough cash reserves and assets to withstand the dispute with inflows into the country still exceeding output.
“We have enough cash to preserve any kind of shock,” the governor said. “So we don’t believe that there is anything to worry about at this moment. What I can say is that our environment is proof to anybody that we are, first of all, solid, strong and resilient against any kind of shocks.”
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