The United States and Qatar have signed an agreement to help combat “terrorism financing” during a visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Doha. Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, and Secretary Tillerson announced the agreement on Tuesday during a joint press conference in the Qatari capital.
Sheikh Mohammed said the signing was “not related to the recent crisis and the blockade imposed against Qatar.” Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates have accused Qatar of funding terrorism, something Qatar vehemently denies. The four countries cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed a land, air, and sea blockade on the country that severely limits trade into and out of Qatar. Nevertheless, the agreement will go a long way to ease tensions between Qatar and neighboring nations.
“Today, Qatar is the first country to sign a memorandum of agreement with the US, and we call on the countries imposing the siege against Qatar to join us as signatories to this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),” Secretary Tillerson said. Tillerson praised Qatar for signing the deal, and for committing to the effort “to track down and disable terror financing.”
“The US has one goal, to drive terrorism off the face of the earth. Together the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information, and will do more to keep the region and our homeland safe,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson’s four-day trip to the region is an attempt to try to find a solution to the crisis between the Gulf Region states. He will meet with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt in Jeddah on Wednesday. When asked for a timeline on resolving the crisis, he stated the discussions were ongoing.
“My role here is to support the efforts of the Emir of Kuwait and the Kuwaiti mediator to bring what we can to the discussions to help both sides more fully understand the concerns of the relative parties and also point out possible solutions to those,” Tillerson told reporters.
Kuwait has taken on a role as mediator between the nations and is working to solve the conflict. Shafeeq Gabra, professor of political science at Kuwait University, said Tuesday’s agreement between the US and Qatar would help ease tensions in the Gulf.
“It will make the US and Qatar closer. It will allow the Americans to clearly say they can see through what Qatar is doing regarding at least one major accusation from the countries that imposed the blockade. That claim is accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism which is untrue. And that takes a major chunk of the whole story, totally out the window,” Gabra said.
Kuwait’s ruler has described the rift in the Gulf as unprecedented and said he intended to push ahead with mediation efforts. The Kuwaiti state news agency KUNA reported, “His Highness the country’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah expressed a feeling of bitterness and has been deeply affected by the unprecedented developments that our Gulf house is witnessing.” He also stated that the positive reaction and support for Kuwait’s mediation efforts had strengthened his resolve to deal with the crisis.