Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday urged Gulf states to ease their blockade of Qatar, saying it has “humanitarian consequences” and hinders the United States’ military efforts.
Roughly an hour later, though, President Donald Trump heavily criticized Qatar without mentioning a need to pull back on the blockade. Trump called Qatar “a funder of terrorism at a very high level” and said nations had the choice of taking the “easy road” or the “hard but necessary action.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and transportation links with Qatar on Monday. The nations have long criticized Qatar’s support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
The U.S. expects the countries to “immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve the grievances they have with each other,” Tillerson told reporters at the State Department.
On Tuesday, Trump seemed to endorse the Gulf
Trump added that “all reference was pointing to Qatar.”
On Friday, Tillerson said the blockade has caused shortages of food, the separation of families and other “unintended consequences.” He added that it hurts U.S. business activities and the U.S. effort to fight the terror group ISIS.
Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base hosts the largest U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Al Udeid is also a base for the United States Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations from Egypt to Pakistan and north through Afghanistan all the way to the border with Russia.
Tillerson called for “no further escalation by the parties in the region.” But he also urged Qatar to be “responsive to the concerns of its neighbors.”
— CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report
Watch: Trump says Qatar must stop funding extremist ideology