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Tillerson to attend Saudi-Iraqi cooperation meeting

US Secretary of State says he has low expectations that the Qatar crisis will be resolved anytime soon

Image Credit: AFP
Rex Tillerson
Gulf News

Washington: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departs Friday for the Gulf where he will take part in the first meeting of a Saudi-Iraqi coordination council in Riyadh.

Gulf News broke the story in April about the coordination council which aims to boost cooperation in various sectors including oil, economy, trade, intelligence and counter-terrorism.

Iraq is hoping Saudi Arabia will foot the bill of Mosul’s reconstruction after a Iraqi forces liberate the city from Daesh control.

In 2015, following a 25-year break, Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad and in February Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir made a rare visit to Baghdad.

Analysts say that Riyadh, and even Abu Dhabi, are working to bring Iraq back into the Arab fold, after being dominated by Iran after the ouster of Saddam Hussain by American forces in 2003.

Iraq’s relations with Gulf countries have been sour since the First Gulf War when Saddam invaded Kuwait.

On the issue of the crisis with Qatar, Tillerson said his expectations of resolving the issue were low.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran.

The sides have been at an impasse since then, despite efforts by Kuwait to mediate the crisis.

US President Donald Trump, after initially appearing to support the effort to isolate Qatar, has called for mediation and recently predicted a rapid end to the crisis.

But Tillerson indicated there has been little movement.

“Our role is to try to ensure lines of communication are as open as we can help them be, that messages not be misunderstood,” he said.

“We’re ready to play any role we can to bring them together but at this point it really is now up to the leadership of those countries.”

Besides the Gulf dispute, Iran, the conflict in Yemen and counter-terrorism also are on the agenda in the Gulf, the State Department said.