Middle East

Qatar-US terrorism funding deal insufficient, Saudi-led bloc says

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani (R) sign a memorandum of understanding in Doha, Qatar (11 July 2017) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The US secretary of state signed a memorandum of understanding with his Qatari counterpart

The four Arab states leading a boycott of Qatar say it will continue despite a deal between Washington and Doha to combat the financing of terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt said the deal brokered by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday was "not enough".

Qatar's government "cannot be trusted", they added, citing previous agreements.

The four have accused the emirate of supporting terrorist groups across the region. It has denied any wrongdoing.

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

But after receiving what they called a "negative" response last week, the four states said they would take further "political, economic and legal measures".

Mr Tillerson flew to Doha on Tuesday to sign a memo of understanding between the US and Qatar on terrorism financing that was proposed when President Donald Trump attended the Arab Islamic American Summit in the Saudi capital in May.

"The agreement which we both have signed on behalf of our governments represents weeks of intensive discussions between experts and reinvigorates the spirit of the Riyadh summit," Mr Tillerson told a joint news conference with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani.

"The memorandum lays out a series of steps that each country will take in coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counter-terrorism activities globally," he added.

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar was the first country in the region to sign such an agreement with the US and called on the "siege" nations to follow suit.

Qatar has acknowledged providing assistance to Islamist groups designated as terrorist organisations by some of its neighbours, notably the Muslim Brotherhood and the Hamas movement. But it has denied aiding militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or so-called Islamic State.

Later on Tuesday, the Saudi-led bloc issued a joint statement saying that while it appreciated US efforts to combat terrorism, more needed to be done.

"It must be stressed that this step is not enough and the four countries will closely watch how serious the Qatari authorities are in their fight against all forms of funding, supporting and embracing terrorism," the statement said.

The Qatari authorities needed to do show their "seriousness in getting back to the natural and right path" and "comprehensively implement the just demands" of its neighbours, it added.

Mr Tillerson, who has said the demands must be "reasonable and actionable" and called for "constructive dialogue", held talks on Wednesday with the foreign ministers of the four states in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.