US, Qatar agree to counterterrorism plan amid diplomatic crisis

The United States and Qatar signed an agreement Tuesday outlining future efforts to disrupt terrorist financing, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commending Qatar for being the first country to heed President Trump’s call on terrorism.

“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,” Tillerson said during a joint press conference with the Qatari foreign minister.

“I applaud the leadership of his highness the emir of Qatar for being the first to respond to President Trump’s challenge at the Riyadh Summit to stop the funding of terrorism.”

Tillerson’s statement, which came during a trip to the region to help broker an end to the diplomatic crisis, appears to undercut the Saudi Arabia-led bloc’s reasons for cutting ties to Qatar, as well as Trump’s own criticisms of Doha.

Last month, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a de facto blockade against Qatar over allegations of funding terrorism, as well as its relations with Iran.

Trump took credit for the Gulf nations’ move, saying that his speech in Saudi Arabia calling on Muslim countries to unite against terrorism and Iran was the impetus for their decision.

He also bashed Qatar as a “a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level.”

The memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday was the result of weeks of “intensive” talks, Tillerson said.

The memo lays out a series of steps both the United States and Qatar will take in the coming months and years to “interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally,” Tillerson said. It includes milestones to hold both countries accountable to the commitments, he added.

Tillerson called Qatar’s position in the negotiations “reasonable.”

Qatar rejected a list of demands from the Saudi-led bloc that included shutting down news station Al Jazeera, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and closing a Turkish military base.

“I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions and I think very reasonable and we want to talk now [about] how do we take things forward and that’s my purpose in coming,” Tillerson said.

Prior to his Tuesday stop in Doha, Tillerson visited Turkey and Kuwait, which has taken the lead in mediating the crisis, to discuss the dispute. He’ll travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday to discuss the crisis with senior Saudi officials.

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