The United States is “mystified” over the continued blockade of Qatar by its Arab neighbors, a top State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday, calling once again for a de-escalation of the diplomatic crisis.
“Now that it’s been over two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the (Persian) Gulf States have not released to the public, nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters at a press briefing, CNN reported.
“The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the (UAE). At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the (P)GCC countries?” she said.
The comments mark an escalation in US efforts to intercede in the conflict, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson launched in earnest last week, at US President Donald Trump’s request.
It’s also the administration’s strongest public condemnation of the blockade, which began earlier this month when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and others cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar for allegedly supporting extremism.
To date, the administration’s messaging on the crisis has been inconsistent.
Initially, Trump seemed to welcome the diplomatic freeze, going so far as to suggest he was partially responsible for the decision.
“We had a decision to make,” Trump told reporters in the White House Rose Garden two weeks ago. “Do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism.”
The remarks created confusion within Washington’s foreign policy circles. Only hours earlier, Tillerson went in front of cameras at the State Department to say the blockade was “hindering US military actions in the region and the campaign against IS.”
Tillerson did not elaborate on that claim, but called on parties in the region to come together and find a diplomatic solution to the quarrel.
The US maintains a large military base in Qatar, which is home to some 11,000 personnel.
In congressional testimony last week, Tillerson insisted there was “no daylight” between himself and Trump on the issue of Qatar.