Erdogan urges lifting of blockade against Qatar

He was referring to the enormous Al-Udeid airbase, the United States' biggest in the Middle East which is home to some 10,000 U.S. troops.

But it has fallen out with its Arab neighbors, who accuse it of sponsoring extremist groups, some of them allegedly linked to arch Saudi foe Iran, fomenting trouble across the region. Qatar's neighbors have also criticized Qatar for allegedly supporting groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Qatar acknowledges its links to these groups, but denies that it supports terrorism.

Tillerson has been tapped by Trump to help mediate the crisis.

The US president s rhetoric on Friday, however, did not appear likely to calm spirits in Doha.

Addressing a White House news conference, the president said Qatar had "historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level".

Tillerson told reporters at the State Department that the crisis, which has cut transportation links and trade, had begun hurting ordinary people in Qatar, and that it was impairing business dealings and harming the U.S. battle against the Islamic State militant group.

Qatar said it leads the region in attacking what it called the roots of terrorism, giving young people hope through jobs, educating hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and funding community programmes to challenge extremist agendas. Tillerson has been tapped by Trump to help mediate the worst diplomatic crisis in the Gulf in years.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday evening called for lifting the blockade against Qatar, reaffirming Turkey's support for the Arab country. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states accuse Doha of supporting extremist groups, but Tillerson suggested that all sides needed to do more. Tillerson is calling on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to immediately ease their blockade on Qatar.

Tillerson also said the blockade by Qatar's neighbors was "hindering US military action in the region, and the campaign against ISIS", using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

Tillerson addressed criticism that the other Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia are also complicit when it comes to backing or fueling extremism. We are seeing shortages of food. "But they can be addressed immediately".

He said the USA supports the emir of Kuwait in his efforts to resolve the conflict and closed by calling upon the Gulf Cooperation Council - a regional political alliance between Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - to reaffirm the spirit of the summit attended by Trump three weeks ago, during which all of the countries committed to fight against terrorism. "We believe we have reached the end of the line in discussing with Qataris how things can get better".

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani called the moves by Arab neighbours and others "clear violations of global law and worldwide humanitarian law".

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain released a joint statement listing 59 entities and individuals, including members of Qatar s royal family as involved in "terrorist" activities.

In doing so, the President's tone, if not his message, clashed with his most senior national security officials, highlighting the often mixed messages emerging from his administration since the Qatar crisis began Tuesday.

The Gulf nations have cut air and land access to Qatar, with some moving to close their airspace to flights on the way to Qatar, but United States military officials said their operations continue without interruption.

Meanwhile, the crisis is drawing in more countries.

Qatar dismissed the latest move by its neighbours, saying it "reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact".

With supply chains disrupted and anxiety mounting about deepening economic turbulence, banks and firms in Gulf Arab states were trying to keep business links to Qatar open and avoid a costly firesale of assets. He noted that during his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, Arab leaders he'd met with had joined in warning about Qatari support for terrorism.

  • Salvatore Jensen