The Trump administration is being drawn further into the crisis engulfing Qatar and many of its Gulf Arab neighbors, a diplomatic tussle that it wanted to avoid.
Despite numerous US appeals for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to resolve their issues with Qatar on their own, the State Department said Thursday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would visit the region next week in a bid to mediate a solution.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tillerson would visit Kuwait, which has been trying to broker an agreement, on Monday after stops in Ukraine and Turkey.
She said Tillerson would meet with Kuwaiti officials, but his presence in the region leaves open the possibility that he may try to shuttle between the neighboring countries to forge a resolution.
The four nations cut off diplomatic ties to Qatar a month ago, accusing the tiny nation of funding terrorism and spreading unrest. Qatar has refused to comply in whole with a list of demands from its neighbors.
The US has been supporting Kuwait’s mediation efforts, but Tillerson’s trip will mark a new level of US involvement in trying to broker a resolution.
Earlier Thursday, Nauert warned that the crisis over Qatar may not be quickly resolved.
“We’ve become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point,” she said. “We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks; it could drag on for months; it could possibly even intensify.”
She didn’t specify what type of escalation the US fears. But she said Tillerson remains in close contact with the countries involved.