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Tillerson returning to Saudi Arabia, Qatar

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this weekend to engage with two US allies locked in a protracted diplomatic row, the State Department said Thursday.

After Riyadh and Doha, the secretary will go to Islamabad and New Delhi, stops that had been announced previously, and then to Geneva on his way back to Washington.

Tillerson will meet with various Saudi and Qatari officials during the Gulf leg of the October 20-27 trip to discuss the three month old dispute.

Tillerson will also discuss Iran, the conflict in Yemen and counter-terrorism during his meetings in the Gulf, the State Department said.

Tillerson made an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the Gulf dispute during a trip to the region in July.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran.

The sides have been at an impasse since then, despite efforts by Kuwait to mediate the crisis, which has no precedent in the Gulf.

US President Donald Trump, after initially appearing to support the effort to isolate Qatar, has called for mediation and recently predicted a rapid end to the crisis.

Tillerson will also take part in the first meeting of a Saudi-Iraqi coordination council, a sign of warming relations between the kingdom and Baghdad as the Saudis seek to counter Tehran’s influence in Iraq.

In Islamabad, Tillerson will stress “Pakistan’s critical role in the success of our South Asia strategy,” the State Department said.

Trump has stepped up pressure on the Pakistani authorities and military, which have been accused of being too soft on the Taliban.

In New Delhi, he will be looking for ways to strengthen the US “strategic partnership” with India, seen as a counter to China’s rise as a world power.

The secretary of state will then take up global humanitarian crises during a visit in Geneva with heads of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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