Tillerson, Mattis call for calming tensions in GCC crisis

 30 Jan 2018 - 19:09

Tillerson, Mattis call for calming tensions in GCC crisis
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (R) looks on as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (L) and Defense Minister Khalid bin Muhammad al-Attiyah at the opening session of the inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

AFP

WASHINGTON: The US secretaries of state and defense on Tuesday called on all sides in the Gulf Crisis to calm tensions among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had imposed a blockade on Qatar from June 2017.

US officials had a meeting with Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs H E Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah in Washington.

"It is critical that all parties minimize rhetoric, exercise restraint to avoid further escalation and work toward a resolution," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a joint appearance of the US and Qatari Foreign and Defense ministers.

"A united Gulf Cooperation Council bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on counterterrorism, defeating Daesh, and countering the spread of Iran's malign influence," said Defense Secretary James Mattis, referring to the Islamic State militant group sometimes called ISIS or ISIL.

"It is thus critical that the GCC recovers its cohesion as the proud Gulf nations return to mutual support through a peaceful resolution that provides for enhanced regional stability and prosperity," he added.

The two men spoke along with their Qatari counterparts after the first of what is to become an annual US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue. The GCC's members, all of whom are US partners, are Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar is host to US and international forces at Al Udeid Air Base, which is home to the Combined Air Operations Center. The operation coordinates an array of data and intelligence from satellites, drones, radar and US planes flying over Middle East hot spots and bombing Islamic State positions.

“We need to strengthen regional security. The blockade undermines efforts to establish stability in our region,” Qatar FM said.

“We are grateful to the State of Qatar for its support and efforts in the war on terror,” Mattis said.

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