Tillerson, Mediating Gulf Dispute, Signs Antiterrorism Pact With Qatar -- 2nd Update

By Felicia Schwartz Features Dow Jones Newswires

The U.S. and Qatar signed an agreement in Doha Tuesday to crack down on terrorist financing, part of efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he shuttles around the Persian Gulf to resolve a weekslong conflict between four Arab states and Qatar.

Continue Reading Below

Under the agreement, the two countries will step up efforts to track down terrorist funding sources and will do more to collaborate and share information.

Speaking to reporters after meetings with senior Qatari officials, Mr. Tillerson said the agreement lays out steps both sides will take in coming months and years to "interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally."

Both Mr. Tillerson and his Qatari counterpart said Tuesday the accord isn't directly related to the feud with Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on the other.

"The United States has one goal, drive terrorism off the face of the earth," Mr. Tillerson said. "The agreement in which we both have signed on behalf of our governments represents weeks of intensive discussions between experts and reinvigorates the spirit of the Riyadh summit," he said in reference to meetings in May in Riyadh among the leaders of the U.S. and Arab countries.

He added: "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."

Continue Reading Below

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who spoke to reporters alongside Mr. Tillerson, said, "The blockading countries have accused Qatar of financing terrorism, now the state of Qatar is the first country to sign this memorandum of understanding with the United States. We invite the other blockading countries to join."

The four countries cut diplomatic ties and imposed a travel ban on June 5 in response to allegations that Qatar funds terrorist groups. U.S. officials have said they fear the conflict could drag on for months.

Qatar denies the allegations and has accused the bloc of Arab nations of waging a smear campaign. The four Arab countries rejected Qatar's response to a list of demands to try to resolve the crisis, including curbing diplomatic ties with Iran, severing links with the Muslim Brotherhood and closing the Al Jazeera television network.

Mr. Tillerson will meet with officials from the four-nation bloc Wednesday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Trump administration officials want to bring an end to the conflict as well as combat the flow of funds to terrorist groups. Mr. Tillerson said some of the work on the agreement signed Tuesday began a year ago, and that experts have held discussions on the document for weeks.

"I applaud the leadership of his Highness the Emir of Qatar [ Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani] for being the first to respond to President Trump's challenge at the Riyadh summit to stop the funding of terrorism, " Mr. Tillerson said Tuesday.

Earlier, Mr. Tillerson called Qatar's position in the feud with the four Arab nations "very reasonable."

Later Tuesday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt said in a statement that the agreement reached between Washington and Doha "is not enough," and said they would "closely monitor the seriousness of Qatar in combating all forms of funding, supporting and fostering of terrorism," according to Emirati state news agency WAM. The four nations also said sanctions on Qatar would remain in place until Doha abides by their list of 13 demands.

At the start of the conflict in June, President Donald Trump sided with Saudi Arabia and the other countries, criticizing Qatar's alleged support to terrorist groups and taking credit for the decision to crack down on Doha as evidence of the success of his visit to Riyadh in May. Mr. Tillerson, on the other hand, has been sympathetic to Qatar throughout and has urged calm and moderation.

Before Mr. Tillerson arrived in Kuwait on Monday, a senior adviser traveling with him told reporters that the list of 13 demands put forward to Qatar by the four Arab countries aren't viable as a package.

Mr. Tillerson is using Kuwait as a base to travel around the Persian Gulf region throughout the week.

"They are not worth revisiting as a package but individually there are things in there that could work," R.C. Hammond, the adviser, told reporters in Istanbul.

Mr. Hammond said both sides will need to make concessions to bring about an end to the conflict, as all nations in the region could do more to combat terror financing.

"This is a two-way street," he said Monday.

Qatar and its neighbors in 2013 and 2014 agreed on a number of actions that would result in Doha ending its support for political groups active in those countries and in Yemen. Details of that agreement, which were disclosed for the first time earlier this week, show that Qatar has until now failed to comply with these demands, the four Arab countries said Monday.

In a joint statement, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt said the documents "confirm beyond any doubt Qatar's failure to meet its commitments and its full violations of its pledges."

In response, Qatar said the publication of the documents was an attempt to undermine Mr. Tillerson's efforts to resolve the crisis. Doha also repeated earlier accusations that the quartet is seeking to destabilize Qatar's government and sovereignty.

Nicolas Parasie in Dubai contributed to this article.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 11, 2017 17:05 ET (21:05 GMT)