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Qatar-US deal to fight terror fails to end Gulf standoff

12 July 2017

Qatar and the United States on Tuesday signed a deal to combat "terrorism" amidst the Gulf diplomatic crisis. But the four Arab states leading a boycott of Qatar say they will continue with their embargo on Qatar despite a deal between Washington and Doha to combat financing of terrorism.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Qatari minister of foreign affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani signed the memorandum of understanding in Doha in a bid to defuse the diplomatic stand-off.

"The memorandum lays out a series of steps the two countries will take over the coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counter-terrorism activities globally," Tillerson said at a joint press conference.

Qatar now becomes "the first to respond" to US President Donald Trump's call at a summit in Riyadh earlier this year "to stop the funding of terrorism," Tillerson said, suggesting such deals could be signed with the other Arab states as a step toward ending the crisis.

Sheikh Mohammed also urged "the siege countries to join us in the future" by signing on to such deals.

But Tuesday's initiative met a dismissive reaction from the Arab countries that imposed sanctions on Qatar last month. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, however, said the deal brokered by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday was "not enough".

"This step is insufficient," said a joint statement published by Saudi state news agency SPA, adding that the four states would "carefully monitor the seriousness of Qatari authorities in combating all forms of financing, supporting and harbouring terrorism."

Tillerson, who is in Qatar as part of a series of Gulf meetings, however, said Doha had been "reasonable" in the dispute that led to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cutting ties with the emirate over accusations it supports extremism.

The four Arab countries said Qatar's government "cannot be trusted", citing previous agreements, and accused the emirate of supporting terrorist groups across the region.

While the State Department has warned the crisis could last months, Tillerson on Tuesday struck a moderately optimistic note. "I'm hopeful we can make some progress to bring this to a point of resolution," he said.

Tillerson flew back to Kuwait - the main mediator in the crisis and where he is based this week - after the talks in Qatar.

Egypt announced the meeting with Tillerson in Jeddah on Wednesday, saying it "reflects the four countries' desire to enhance coordination and underscore their unity on ways to deal with Qatar in the future."

Qatar was presented with a list of demands two weeks ago that went beyond the issue of supporting terror, and included demands such as shutting down the Al Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading relations with Iran, besides cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar has so far denied any wrongdoing.

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