US fears rift involving Qatar & Arab states could intensify
Foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain discuss new measures against Qatar which has refused to comply with the earlier set of 13 demands from the Arab states. Photograph: (Reuters)
In a move that signals that the ongoing diplomatic standoff involving Qatar and other Arab states will only worsen, the four Arab states led by Saudi Arabia pledged new political, economic and legal steps against Qatar declaring the earlier set of 13 demands as void.
The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE met in Cairo and discussed the new set of measures against Doha. They said that Qatar's refusal to comply with the initial set of 13 demands is proof that the gas-rich nation has links with terror groups.
However, the anti-Qatar coalition led by Saudi Arabia did not elaborate as to when the new measures will come into force.
The four Aarb states condemned Doha's response as "negative" and lacking in content, Reuters reported.
The United States has expressed concern that the ongoing dispute between Qatar and the Arab states could drag for months or possibly even intensify.
Speaking about the rift between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on the other, state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, "We remain very concerned about that ongoing situation between Qatar and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries."
"We've become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point. We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks. It could drag on for months. It could possibly even intensify," she added.
According to a report, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is planning to visit Kuwait which is acting as a mediator in the dispute. US defence secretary Jim Mattis had a phone conversation with his Qatari counterpart stressing the "importance of de-escalating tensions", Reuters quoted the Pentagon as saying.
Mattis also reaffirmed America's startegic security partnership with Qatar. Qatar is one of the important allies of US in the fight against the Islamic State as it hosts the largest US air force base in the entire region from where anti-IS raids are launched.
The rift started last month in June when the four Arab states broke diplomatic ties with the gas-rch nation, which is also a close US-ally in West Asia, alleging that it has links with terror groups.