JEDDAH: The US and Qatar on Tuesday signed an agreement aimed at combating the financing of terrorism.
The signing of the pact, during a visit to Doha by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, comes after the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt — last month imposed sanctions on Qatar for financing extremist groups.
Tillerson said the agreement signed with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani followed intensive discussions.
“The agreement which we both have signed on behalf of our governments represents weeks of intensive discussions between experts and reinvigorates the spirit of the Riyadh summit,” Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Sheikh Mohammed.
“The memorandum lays out a series of steps that each country will take in coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally,” said Tillerson.
Tillerson said the agreement includes milestones to ensure both countries are accountable through their commitments.
“Together the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information and will do more to keep the region ... safe,” Tillerson said.
Fahad Nazer, a political analyst based in Washington, wondered why it took so long for Qatar to agree to stop financing terror.
He told Arab News: “The memorandum of understanding between the US and Qatar could potentially be a positive development, but it really begs a legitimate question: What took Qatar so long? Saudi Arabia and most other (Gulf Cooperation Council) states have long resolved to take similar measures, and have indeed taken concrete steps to cut off financing of extremist groups and organizations. Some of these measures were implemented 10 years ago and even earlier. In some ways, the agreement raises more questions than it answers.”
Perry Cammack, fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the symbolism of the US-Qatar memorandum of understanding on terrorist financing is more important than the content.
"By sidestepping direct reference to the list of Saudi and Emirati demands, the agreement allows Qatar to implicitly acknowledge its willingness to increase its efforts against terrorist financing, while establishing the United States as a mediator in the conflict," said Cammack.
"It remains to be seen, though, whether this agreement can be a bridge to a broader GCC political settlement, since both sides are deeply entrenched in their positions," he added.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics, told Arab News: “The agreement helps tone down the acrimony between the two sides and gives Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy a chance. This is a possible first step, but the bigger picture remains the same for Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain — Qatar must change.”
For its part, the ATQ issued a joint-statement saying the four countries value US efforts. However, the quartet made it clear that this step is not enough and that Qatari “seriousness in combating all forms of financing, supporting and harboring terror” will be closely monitored.
Tillerson is expected in Jeddah on Wednesday for talks with the foreign ministers of the Anti-Terror Quartet.