U.S. State Dept. critical of Saudi Arabia's handling of Qatar embargo

By Ed Adamczyk  |  June 21, 2017 at 9:04 AM
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June 21 (UPI) -- The State Department publicly criticized Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations for their handling of an embargo against Qatar.

The two-week embargo, begun June 4 over accusations that small but oil-rich Qatar funds Islamist terrorism, came days after President Donald Trump was lavishly praised during his visit to Saudi Arabia. Qatar has not been offered suggestions for specific actions to resolve the embargo, which includes the closure of air and trade routes between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

"Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo has started, we are mystified that the gulf states have not released to the public nor to the Qataris the details about the claims they are making toward Qatar. The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar's alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long simmering grievances," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday.

Trump signaled his approval of the embargo soon after it began. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, mindful of the presence of a major U.S. military base in Qatar, called for mediation and a quick resolution of the dispute, which is largely between Qatar and other members of the influential and Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council. Within hours of Tillerson's comments on June 9, Trump called Qatar a "funder of terrorism at a very high level."

Saudi Arabia, now with Trump on its side, has not ended the embargo. Tillerson has called on a lifting of the embargo, although the State Department seeks to stay out of the dispute, Nauert said.

"We see this as long-simmering tensions that have been going on for quite some time, and that is why we believe that this can be resolved peacefully among the parties without the United States having to step in in some sort of formal mediation role, that they can do this on their own, and we're asking them to 'Let's move this along,'" she said.

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