The memorandum of understanding was signed on the second leg of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to the region in a bid to break the deadlock between Qatar and a Saudi-led block of four nations.

Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sign a memorandum of understanding in Doha.
Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sign a memorandum of understanding in Doha.

The United States and Qatar signed an agreement on combatting terrorism and its financing during a visit to Doha by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his senior adviser R.C. Hammond told reporters.

"Qatar and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding between the two counties outlining future efforts Qatar can take to fortify its fight against terrorism and actively address terrorism funding issues," he said.

"This is a hopeful step forward," Hammond added.

Qatar was Tillerson's second stop on a shuttle-diplomacy circuit that will also take him to Saudi Arabia, which shares Qatar's only land border and is the most powerful of the four countries lined up against it.

Describing himself as a "friend to the region," Tillerson expressed hope for progress in ending the standoff in brief remarks following a meeting with 37-year-old Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the sweltering Qatari capital, Doha.

The MOU addresses one of the core allegations made against Qatar by the quartet, which has accused Doha of supporting extremists. Qatar has repeatedly denied the charge.

Political backing

Tillerson also gave besieged Qatar some political backing ahead of talks with officials from the Arab quartet in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

"I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions and I think very reasonable," he said.

Tillerson, a former oilman with years of experience in the oil-rich region, began his Gulf visit on Monday by meeting Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah.

The Kuwaiti leader has been acting as a mediator between Qatar and the quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The four nations broke off relations with Qatar and cut air, sea and land routes with it in early June. They later issued a 13-point list of demands to restore relations and gave Doha 10 days to comply.

The demands include Qatar shutting down news outlets, including the media network Al-Jazeera, cutting ties with Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country.

Qatar strenuously denies supporting extremist groups and has rejected the demands, saying that agreeing to them wholesale would undermine its sovereignty.

Hosting Hamas officials

Qatar has, however, hosted senior Hamas officials on its soil and is the largest financial patron of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

It argues its aid is for the Palestinian people rather than Hamas.

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Amadi signed a new agreement with a Palestinian contractor to build eight residential buildings in Gaza on Tuesday. He said his country would continue to support development projects in the seaside territory, which Hamas seized from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

U.S. officials have said Tillerson does not expect an immediate breakthrough in the dispute and cautioned that a resolution could take months.

A senior adviser to Tillerson, R.C. Hammond, has said the demands on Qatar were not viable but that there were individual items on the list "that could work." He did not elaborate.

Qatar is not new territory for Tillerson. Before being tapped to be President Donald Trump's top diplomat, he served for years as CEO of Exxon Mobil.

The Irving, Texas-based oil giant is one of the most dominant players in OPEC member Qatar's energy industry, and played a major role in turning it into the world's largest producer of liquefied natural gas.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies