US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has secured a commitment from Qatar to intensify its counter-terrorism efforts as he looks to end the squabbling among key Middle Eastern allies.

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”, he expressed hope for progress in ending the stand-off in brief remarks following a meeting with 37-year-old Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding during his visit “outlining future efforts Qatar can take to fortify its fight against terrorism and actively address terrorism funding issues”, said senior Tillerson adviser RC Hammond.

That agreement addresses one of the core allegations made against Qatar by the quartet, which has accused Doha of supporting extremists.

Qatar denies the charge.

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

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

Tillerson, a former oil boss 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.

Tillerson’s arrival in the Gulf coincided with American news network CNN ‘s release on Monday of allegedly leaked agreements between Qatar and its neighbours dating from 2013 and 2014.

They include a handwritten 2013 deal between the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to not interfere directly or indirectly in the internal affairs of fellow members of the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which also includes Bahrain, Oman and the UAE.

That agreement specifically ruled out support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other unnamed groups that could threaten the bloc’s members.

Qatar sees the Brotherhood as a legitimate political force and has for years hosted its spiritual guide, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi.

That puts it squarely at odds with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which see it as a threat and label it as a terrorist organisation.

The four anti-Qatar countries lent credibility to the authenticity of the leaked agreements in a statement issued early yesterday.

The network said it received the documents from a source in the region.

Qatar has also hosted senior Hamas officials and is the largest financial patron to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

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

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Amadi yesterday signed a new agreement with a Palestinian contractor to build eight residential buildings in Gaza.

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.

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

Hammond has said there were individual items on the list “that could work”, but did not elaborate.

Before being tapped to be President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, Tillerson served for years as chief executive 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.