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UPDATE 1-Tillerson urges Arab states to lift Qatar 'land blockade'
July 21, 2017 / 1:55 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Tillerson urges Arab states to lift Qatar 'land blockade'

(Adds background, comments)

WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday the United States was satisfied with Qatar’s efforts to implement an agreement aimed at combating terror financing, and urged Arab states to lift a “land blockade” on the tiny Gulf nation.

Tillerson shuttled between Gulf countries last week to convince them to help ease the worst regional dispute in years but left the region without any firm signs the feud would be resolved soon.

Last month, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of financing extremist groups and allying with the Gulf Arab states’ arch-foe Iran. Qatar denies the allegations.

The countries made 13 demands of Qatar - including that it shuts down a Turkish military base and the Al Jazeera pan-Arab television network - which Doha has rejected.

While in the Gulf, Tillerson signed an accord with Qatar on terrorism financing in a bid to ease the crisis, but Qatar’s opponents said it fell short of addressing their concerns.

“They have been very aggressive in implementing that agreement, so I think we’re satisfied with the effort they’re putting forth,” Tillerson told reporters just before meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah at the State Department.

Tillerson said Qatar was willing to sit with the four countries to discuss their demands, but that it was important to Doha “that the sovereignty and dignity of all five countries be respected in those discussions.”

In a move to counter the four states’ accusations, Qatar has set rules for defining terrorism, freezing funding and terrorism financing and established national terrorism lists.

In one of the first positive signs from the four Arab states since they imposed the sanctions last month, the United Arab Emirates on Friday welcomed Qatar’s decision to amend its anti-terrorism laws.

The four states cut diplomatic, transport and commercial ties with Qatar on June 5, disrupting the import of food and other items and causing foreign banks to scale back business with Qatar.

“I hope the four countries will consider as a sign of good faith lifting this land blockade which is really having the most, I think, negative effects on the Qatari people,” Tillerson said. (Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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