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Tillerson leaves Gulf with no end in sight to Qatar crisis

Reuters

Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attend a joint news conference in Doha on Tuesday.

AFP-JijiDOHA (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday wrapped up a four-day mission to the Gulf with little sign of progress in resolving the diplomatic crisis pitting Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar.

Tillerson met Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani for the second time in 48 hours, together with a Kuwaiti mediator, on the final leg of his trip.

He then held talks with the Qatari foreign minister and the Kuwaiti team before heading back to Washington. In a possible indication of little headway to report, all sides left the meeting without saying a word to waiting reporters.

Despite an intense round of shuttle diplomacy that also took Tillerson to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, tensions remained high between Qatar and four Arab states that accuse Doha of supporting extremism and being too close to their arch-rival Iran.

The diplomatic slack now appears likely to be picked up again by the Europeans, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian heading to the region at the weekend.

A French diplomatic source in Paris said that Le Drian would try “to recreate confidence, create an interest of all parties to engage in de-escalation”.

Le Drian’s visit will follow similar trips made by his counterparts from Germany and Britain in recent weeks.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have put in place a boycott on Qatar since June 5.

They have imposed sanctions on Doha, including closing its only land border, refusing Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from Qatar.

They also presented the emirate with a list of 13 demands with which to comply to end the worst political crisis in the region for years.

Qatar denies the charges of extremism and called the demands “unrealistic.”

It also claims the boycott has led to human rights violations, and on Thursday one group said abuses were a consequence of the crisis.

“Hundreds of Saudis, Bahrainis, and Emiratis have been forced into the impossible situation of either disregarding their countries’ orders or leaving behind their families and job,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.

Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al-Baker accused neighboring Gulf states of “bullying” his country but said it could ride out the crisis.

“We need our neighbors to know that this kind of bullying doesn’t work because the people of Qatar are very robust and we have no issue to have our normal life,” he said.Speech

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