U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson arrived in Riyadh at start of Gulf, South Asia tour

Vastavam web:  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Riyadh on Saturday to attend a landmark meeting between officials from Saudi Arabia and Iraq aimed at improving relations between the two countries and countering Iran’s growing regional influence. Tillerson’s only official meeting on Saturday was a working dinner with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. He was stopping in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a six-day trip that will also take him to Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland.

His talks in Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia and in Qatar were expected to be dominated by the topic of Shi‘ite-dominated Iran’s growing regional influence.This week they aided Iraqi security forces in seizing the oil-rich area of the northern city of Kirkuk as part of an effort to crush a bid for independence made by the Kurdish minority.

Washington and Riyadh also allege that Iran is supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen against pro-government forces that are supported by a Saudi-led military coalition backed by the United States. Yemen’s grinding civil war was expected to be high on Tillerson’s agenda.During his visit Tillerson is also expected to explore the possibility of renewing a push to end a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and other U.S. Arab allies, although he has conceded he is not optimistic.

In an interview on Thursday with Bloomberg, Tillerson blamed Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt for the lack of progress toward ending the four-month-old crisis.“It’s up to the leadership of the quartet when they want to engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear they are ready to engage,” said Tillerson, who forged close ties to the Gulf Arab countries in his former position as CEO of Exxon Mobil.

A senior UAE official said on Saturday it was up to Qatar to end the crisis ahead of a summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in December.