US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Kuwait at the start of a four-day visit to Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to help seek a resolution to the ongoing Gulf crisis.
INSIDE STORY: Can Washington push for a dialogue on the Gulf crisis?
Tillerson will first “meet with senior Kuwaiti officials to discuss the ongoing efforts to resolve the Gulf dispute” on Monday evening, before heading to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the state department announced.
The quartet accuse Qatar of funding “terrorism”, an accusation Qatar rejects as “baseless”.
On June 22, they issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, as a prerequisite to lift the sanctions.
But Kuwait is still trying to mediate the dispute.
The US has been supporting Kuwait’s mediation efforts, but Tillerson’s trip will mark a new level of US involvement.
On Thursday, the state department warned that the crisis could potentially drag on for weeks or even months and “possibly even intensify”.
“We’ve become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point. We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks; it could drag on for months; it could possibly even intensify,” state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
She did not specify what type of escalation the US fears. But she said Tillerson has been in close contact with the countries involved.
Last month, Tillerson urged the Saudi-led group to ease their blockade on Qatar, saying it is causing unintended humanitarian consequences and affecting the US-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
“Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve the grievances they have with each other,” Tillerson said.
More than 11,000 US and coalition forces are stationed at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, from which more than 100 aircraft operate.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies