WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday accused Qatar of being a "funder of terrorism at a very high level," issuing a warning that the country must "do more" to combat terror.
Just an hour earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Gulf nations to ease the blockade on Qatar, though Tillerson also pressed Qatar to "do more" to fight terrorism.
"The emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country," Tillerson said. "But he must do more and he must do more quickly."
But Trump, taking a much harder line than his chief diplomat, demanded that Qatar "stop teaching people to kill other people, stop filling their heads with hate," and stop funding terror groups.
Now, he said, at a Rose Garden news conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, "the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding" of extremist ideology.
But Trump said the isolation of Qatar is not a long-term U.S. goal, expressing hope that the nation will "do more and do it faster" in cutting its financial ties supporting terror groups.
This was Trump's longest explanation of his stance on the diplomatic freeze-out of Qatar, clarifying an initial picture given by a series of tweets earlier in the week that seemed to indicate support of the decision to isolate the nation.
Those tweets raised questions about how isolation would affect the U.S. military base in Qatar, as well as how the diplomatic stress will affect American priorities and goals in the region.
The Pentagon said the situation in Qatar is having an impact on planning efforts.
"While current operations from Al Udeid Air Base have not been interrupted or curtailed, the evolving situation is hindering our ability to plan for longer-term military operations," Captain Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Defense Department said Friday. "Qatar remains critical for coalition air operations in the fight against ISIS and around the region."
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday the tweets push a "message of toughness on terror financing," while not taking sides. He said the White House hopes to see the issue "de-escalated" and "resolved immediately."