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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Tillerson and Saudi crown prince discuss combating terrorism

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson phoned Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday, shortly after meeting with the Qatari foreign minister in Washington

This photo taken on October 24, 2017 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh. On Monday, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson called the Saudi crown prince to discuss terrorism. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
This photo taken on October 24, 2017 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh. On Monday, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson called the Saudi crown prince to discuss terrorism. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US secretary of state Rex Tillerson have discussed combating terrorism and improving regional security in a phone call.

Mr Tillerson phoned the crown prince on Monday, shortly after meeting with Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Washington.

“During the telephone conversation, they discussed relations between their countries, ways to combat terrorism, and their joint efforts to enhance security and stability in the region,” reported the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Details of Mr Tillerson's meeting with the Qatari foreign minister earlier in the day were not released but it comes as Arab states are boycotting Doha over its links to extremist groups and interference in the affairs of other countries in the region.

On Tuesday, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad, the brother of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, delivered a message from his brother in person to the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed.

The official Kuwait News Agency did not disclose details of the message but it was thought to be related to the Qatar crisis and the likely postponement of the next GCC summit, due to be held in Kuwait in December.

Sheikh Sabah has played the role of chief mediator during the six-month-long dispute between Doha and a quartet of Arab countries that includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, and some had hoped the row would be resolved during Kuwait's hosting of the 38th GCC summit.

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On Monday, however, a Qatari official urged the quartet to allow their nationals to attend the World Cup in Doha in 2022 — an indication that Qatar expects the crisis to last long past December.

Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said Doha had been forced to find new suppliers of construction materials for its World Cup projects since the boycott was imposed, but insisted that the timeline for these projects has not changed.

The quartet cut all diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5.

The US is a key ally of all four boycotting countries but also has close ties with Qatar, where America’s largest military presence in the region is based.

Mr Tillerson has urged both sides to come to the table for talks, saying that the longer the crisis goes on, the more likely it is that those looking to destabilise the region will be able to take advantage of the dispute.

“Anytime there is conflict and destabilisation among countries that are typically allies, someone will always come in to exploit those differences,” he said last month in a likely reference to Iran.

The four Arab countries boycotting Qatar say they are willing to re-establish communications with Doha only if it adheres to regional and international agreements and the demands and principles they have issued.

Doha has so far refused to meet the quartet’s 13 demands, which include the closure of its Al Jazeera news channel — which the quartet says provides a platform for extremists and dissidents — and the shutting down of a permanent Turkish military base in the country.