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Trump Slams Qatar Hours After Tillerson Urges End to Blockade

On Friday, President Trump chided Qatar for funding terrorism, remarks that might complicate U.S. efforts to ease the diplomatic crisis brewing in the Persian Gulf.

“The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level,” Trump said during a press conference at the White House.

Trump’s comments came only a few hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for all sides to de-escalate the conflict, and for other Arab nations to end a blockade against Qatar.  Tillerson was in the White House rose garden during the remarks.

A senior administration official told reporters later Friday that Trump and Tillerson are “on the same page” when it comes to Qatar. Regarding the blockade, the official said Trump relayed his position privately to Gulf states leaders this week.

“What he said was consistent with what the secretary of State said,” the official told reporters aboard Air Force One.

“He mentioned that he was concerned with the food issue, the family separation issue. But he’s also very concerned about Qatar support for terrorist finance and for supporting extremist ideology and other things, and he wants to see that addressed, too.”

On Monday Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and closed all land, sea and air borders. The countries accused its government of supporting extremist groups such as Hamas, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, and for its relations with Iran.

Qatar has so far denied the allegations.

“I’ve decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals, and military people, the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding,” Trump said Friday.

“They have to end that funding and its extremist ideology in terms of funding. I want all of the nations to stop immediately supporting terrorism. Stop teaching people to kill other people and filling their minds with hate and intolerance.”

Trump – who traveled to Saudi Arabia last month and met with numerous Gulf leaders at a summit of Gulf Cooperation Council nations – said several nations “came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior,” following the conference.

Tillerson’s approach to the dispute was a bit more diplomatic. In a four-minute speech at the State Department, he said Qatar needed to address its neighbors’ concerns about terrorist financing, but asked Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade.

The United States relies closely on nearly all Gulf countries involved in the dispute for military operations in the region.