-- As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries Friday to “immediately take steps to de-escalate” the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, which he said is “hindering U.S. military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS,” President Donald Trump continued his criticism of Qatar for what he portrayed as that country's role in funding terrorism.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and two other countries cut diplomatic ties with their neighbor, Qatar, early this week, accusing the small nation of supporting organizations they regard as terrorist, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The nations withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar and cut off air, sea and land travel to the peninsular nation, which is rich in oil but depends heavily on imported food.
Tillerson began his remarks at the State Department with a tough message for Qatar to “be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors.” He said Qatar has historically supported groups that have “spanned the spectrum of political expression from activism to violence.”
But the secretary of state also called on Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar, which he said is causing “unintended” humanitarian consequences such as forcibly separating families and creating food shortages.
President Trump, speaking at the White House later in the day Friday, took a somewhat different tack.
Trump bashed Qatar as a "funder of terrorism at a very high level" and called on it to stop funding terrorist organizations.
"For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations," Trump said. "We ask Qatar and other nations in the region to do more and do it faster."
A senior administration official downplayed any divergence between Trump and Tillerson's remarks in the aftermath, characterizing any perceived difference in their stance on Qatar as a "misperception." The official said that Trump supports easing the blockade for humanitarian reasons and would like to build a productive relationship with the emir of Qatar.
Tillerson’s earlier statement that the "blockade" of Qatar is hurting U.S. economic and military efforts in the region contradicts Pentagon officials’ insistence earlier in the week that there has been no impact on U.S. operations in Qatar, or the fight against ISIS.
Qatar hosts one of the largest U.S. military bases in the Middle East, where about 9,000 U.S. and other service members in the global coalition against ISIS are deployed
“There has been no impact on our operations either in Qatar or with regards to airspace permission around it and we don’t anticipate there will be,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said on Tuesday.
Similarly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Monday that he was “positive there will be no implications coming out of this dramatic situation.” Also on Monday, Tillerson said he did not “expect that this will have any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified fight against terrorism in the region or globally.”
In Tillerson's speech, he said that although the emir has made progress halting financial support for terrorist elements and expelling them from the country, “he must do more and he must do it more quickly.”
He said the U.S. supports the emir of Kuwait in his efforts to resolve the conflict and closed by calling upon the Gulf Cooperation Council -- a regional political alliance between Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE -- to reaffirm the spirit of the summit attended by Trump three weeks ago, during which all of the countries committed to fight against terrorism.
Tillerson said that after speaking with Gulf leaders it is clear “that the elements of a solution are available” and that the U.S. expects “that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other.”
Qatar has disputed the claim that it funds terrorists, with its Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying in English on its website that they are "unfounded allegations" and that the actions taken against it by its neighboring nations are "not justified."
ABC News' Jordyn Phelps and Adam Kelsey contributed to this report.