Qatar is falling short in its efforts to counter terrorism, a Saudi-led alliance that’s boycotting the Gulf nation said, an apparent setback to US mediation efforts after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the bloc to ease its seven-week embargo.
The group also added nine organizations based in Yemen and Libya as well as nine people from Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen and Libya to the list of alleged terrorist groups it accuses the Gulf nation of supporting, according to a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. They included three charitable organisations in Yemen and three media-related entities in Libya.
Recent steps taken by Qatar, including a memorandum of understanding with the US on anti-terrorism measures and the amendment of its own domestic anti-terror law, had created some optimism that an agreement could be reached. Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said his country is open to talks to end the standoff as long as its sovereignty is respected, while the US and UK both called for an end to the boycott.
Qatar must move swiftly to pursue the groups and individuals mentioned in both the revised list and the previous one, the Saudi-led bloc said in the statement. The campaign will continue until Qatar meets the group’s demands in full, it said.
On Friday, Tillerson called on the group to end the campaign as “a sign of good faith” and said the US was satisfied with Qatar’s efforts in implementing the anti-terrorism agreement signed during his Doha trip. Britain later joined his call, with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Sunday welcoming Qatar’s “commitment to combat terrorism” and expressing hope for the start of “substantive discussions on remaining differences.”
The alliance, which also includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar on June 5, accusing the country of supporting Sunni extremist groups and Iranian-backed Shiite militants. Qatar denies the charge and says the move was an attempt by Saudi Arabia to impose its will on smaller nations in the Gulf.
The crisis pits US allies against each other in a power struggle over regional influence. Saudi Arabia has strong counter-terrorism ties with the US and is a top customer for American weapons. Qatar hosts the regional headquarters for US Central Command, which includes a state-of-the-art air base the Pentagon depends on to target ISIL.
The standoff started shortly after Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May, and the president initially sided with the Saudi-led bloc before giving Tillerson the authority to help resolve the dispute. Mediation efforts led by Kuwait have failed so far to prevent the discord from dragging on.
European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called for dialogue and engagement to “start as a matter of urgency” under the mediation of the emir of Kuwait.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Mogherini said she hoped to see agreement on “concrete steps that can be taken to have a more effective counter-terrorism approach” and to prevent the tensions in the Gulf from escalating and spreading beyond the region.