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Tillerson visits Qatar in new push to end Gulf crisis

Top US diplomat arrives in Doha after visit in Saudi Arabia as part of renewed efforts to resolve GCC diplomatic rift.

Tillerson and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Saudi Arabia is not willing to begin direct talks to resolve a months-long diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.

The top US diplomat made the comments on Sunday during a visit to Qatar, where he arrived following a stop in Saudi Arabia as part of a new push to end the dispute.

In Qatar's capital, Doha, Tillerson held talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

In a joint news conference with his Qatari counterpart, Tillerson said he is not hopeful Saudi Arabia is willing to enter discussions to resolve the crisis.

"In my meetings with [Saudi] Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, I asked him to please engage in dialogue, [but] there is not a strong indication that parties are ready to talk yet," said Tillerson, referring to his earlier discussions in Riyadh.

"We cannot force talks upon people who are not ready to talk."

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, air and sea blockade on their Gulf neighbour, accusing it of financing "terrorism" and maintaining too close of ties to their regional rival, Iran. Doha denies the allegations.

Tillerson and expressed concern about the effect of the crisis on the region's stability.

"It's very important for the GCC to continue to pursue unity," he told reporters, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a bloc that includes Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman as its members.

"It is most effective when it is unified and none of us can afford to let this dispute linger," he added, renewing a call for dialogue to resolve the dispute.

"We ask that everyone minimises the rhetoric and de-escalate the tensions and take steps to do so."

'Threat to collective security'

For his part, Qatar's foreign minister reaffirmed Doha's commitment to dialogue and emphasised the need for the crisis to be resolved.

"The GCC is quite important for the collective security and we feel sorry that the GCC will be the victim of the crisis against the state of Qatar," he said.

"This has affected directly the collective security of the GCC because of the behaviour of the blockading countries."

Earlier on Sunday, Tillerson participated in the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee in Riyadh, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The committee aims to improve ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia that have long been regional rivals.


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