Tillerson Engages in Shuttle Diplomacy to Mend GCC Fences

After failing to reach a breakthrough with the Saudi-led group of four countries that have cut ties with Qatar, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has returned to Doha to continue his shuttle diplomacy in hopes of putting an end to the weeks-long rift.

The Saudi-led group accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism and has given Doha a 13-point list of demands after severing diplomatic ties last month, which Qatar rejects as a violation of their sovereignty. Earlier this week, the U.S. and Qatar signed a MOU on combatting terrorism and financing, but that step has not been satisfactory to Saudi Arabia and the other parties.

The United States and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are in an awkward position in the stalemate. In Qatar, the U.S. has its largest military base in the Middle East at the Al Udeid Air Base, which is 20 miles southwest of the Qatari capital of Doha and is home to some 11,000 US military personnel. The US Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and 17 other nations.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is the strongest partner for the United States in the Gulf, and President Trump made it a point to visit Saudi Arabia as his first international trip as president.

Tillerson met with ministers from the Saudi-led group Wednesday in Jeddah, but did not speak to reporters afterward, according to Voice of America. The secretary also met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah.

Before the talks, a senior UAE official said any resolution of the conflict “must go beyond terrorism financing and address all key issues,” VOA reports.

The U.S. is concerned the dispute could hurt its military and counter terrorism operations and enhance Iran’s influence in the region.