Washington: In a dramatic shift, the Trump administration on Tuesday demanded that Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries boycotting Qatar detail their complaints about the small Persian Gulf monarchy’s support for extremism and reach a speedy resolution to the diplomatic crisis.
The comments suggested Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was losing patience in a mediation attempt.
The State Department said it was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had not yet made clear their claims against Qatar or what they want to end the blockade.
Using the word “embargo” several times, spokeswoman Heather Nauert also questioned if the actions were a response to Qatari support for extremism, as the Saudis and others claim, or reflect other tensions.
“Now that it’s been more than two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the Gulf States have not released to the public nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar,” she told reporters. “The more the time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
“At this point we are left with one simple question,” Nauert added. “Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long simmering grievances?”
Nauert noted that Tillerson had held more than 20 phone calls and in-person meetings with senior officials from the countries involved since the crisis erupted earlier this month.
Tillerson also cancelled a scheduled trip to an Organization of American States meeting this week in Mexico to work the Qatar crisis. He will remain engaged, Nauert said, but wants results.
“We are encouraging all sides to de-escalate tensions and engage in constructive dialogue,” Nauert said.
She called on all parties to fight terrorism and meet commitments they made when President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia last month.
Until Tuesday, the US had generally aligned itself with Saudi Arabia. Trump had tweeted that Arab leaders had told him they blamed Qatar for funding extremism.
That was shortly after Saudi Arabia and its partners cut ties with Qatar and blocked air, sea and land traffic to the peninsular nation.