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Tillerson Calls For Easing Qatar Blockade, Says It's Hindering U.S. Fight Against IS

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Persian Gulf states to ease their blockade on Qatar, saying the move has hindered U.S. military efforts, including the air campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Tillerson's comments on June 9 came amid worsening circumstances within Qatar, and angry accusations among the countries' leaders.

Along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut all land, air, and sea links with Qatar earlier this week, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar has dismissed the accusations as baseless.

Qatar is home to the Al-Udeid forward base for U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations not only in Syria, but also Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 10,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed there.

"Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good-faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other," Tillerson told reporters at the State Department.

President Donald Trump earlier this week appeared to fuel the fight when he posted a statement to Twitter saying Qatar was funding extremists.