WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is cancelling his scheduled trip to an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in Mexico next week. Instead, he’ll stay in the U.S. to work on resolving the crisis between Qatar and its neighbors.
A day after announcing that Tillerson would lead the U.S. delegation to the OAS General Assembly in Cancun, the State Department said Friday that Tillerson’s deputy, John Sullivan, will go in his place.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tillerson would stay to work the phones to try to convince Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to settle their differences.
Tillerson “will continue his efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region through in-person meetings and phone conversations with Gulf and regional leaders,” she said in a brief statement.
Simmering tensions between the U.S. partners boiled over this month when Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with Egypt, severed ties with Qatar over its alleged support for extremism and imposed economic restrictions on it.
Since the crisis erupted, Tillerson has spoken with regional leaders more than a dozen times, according to Nauert. On Friday, he met with a top adviser to the emir of Qatar at the State Department. Earlier this week, he met with the Emirati and Saudi foreign ministers in Washington.