U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sealed a deal Tuesday to intensify Qatar’s counterterrorism efforts, handling a central issue.
“Together, the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information, and will do more to keep the region and our homeland safe,” he said following talks with 37-year-old Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Tillerson also gave besieged Qatar some political backing ahead of his talks in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. “I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions and I think very reasonable,” he said earlier in the day.
Though largely symbolic, the deal allows Tillerson to show some progress in his first major attempt at global mediation as secretary of state, and also bolsters President Donald Trump’s claim to be ramping up the fight against terror financing.
The deal may also help Tillerson argue that Qatar is making a good-faith effort to address concerns and that Qatar’s neighbors need to do the same.
The demands include Qatar shutting down news outlets including Al-Jazeera, cutting ties with Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country.
Qatar strenuously denies supporting extremist groups and has rejected the demands, saying that agreeing to them wholesale would undermine its sovereignty.
Underscoring that uneasy position, Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Amadi signed an agreement Tuesday with a Palestinian contractor to build eight residential buildings in Gaza. He said his country would continue to support development projects in the seaside territory — aid Qatar argues is for the Palestinian people rather than Hamas.
Tillerson’s arrival in the Gulf coincided with the release by CNN of alleged agreements between Qatar and its neighbors dating from 2013 and 2014 the network says were leaked by a source in the region.