US 'mystified' over Saudi justifications for Qatar blockade
The United States on Tuesday bluntly announced it was "mystified" that Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies have failed to justify their blockade of Qatar, urging for a resolution to the crisis.
In mounting frustration at Riyadh's role in the diplomatic crisis, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called into question whether Qatar's alleged support for terrorism is the true cause of the seismic rift in Gulf politics.
"Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo started we are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the Qataris nor to the public the details about the claims they are making toward Qatar," she said.
"The more that time goes by the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE," she added, in a significant swipe at two of Washington's closest allies.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been assigned to oversee an end to the crisis, has made at least 20 calls to both Riyadh and Doha with little progress, and wants to see a quick resolution to the spat, Nauert said.
Shift in position?
"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 between and among the GCC countries?" she asked, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes both Doha and Riyadh.
US officials deny the comments mark a shift in their position, but it does signal a break with US President Donald Trump's previous statement on the crisis in which he appeared to take Saudi Arabia’s side.
On June 10, Trump alleged that Qatar "has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level", echoing Saudi Arabia's claim that the gas-rich emirate has been funding extremist groups, some with links to Iran.
"The secretary is determined to remain engaged as we monitor the situation," Nauert said.
"We are encouraging all sides to de-escalate tensions and engage in constructive dialogue. We once again call on all parties to focus on the core regional and international goal of fighting terrorism," she said.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and others severed diplomatic ties and enforced a blockade on Qatar almost two weeks ago, accusing Doha of supporting extremist groups.
Qatar - a key ally of Washington and host of the Middle East's largest US airbase - denies the accusations.