Qatar defiant as deadline nears to resolve Gulf rift
A deadline was approaching Sunday for Qatar to accept a series of demands made by several Arab states to lift a de facto blockade, with no indications Doha was ready to comply.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Saturday that the 13 demands from Saudi Arabia and several of its allies were designed to be spurned.
“The list of demands is made to be rejected,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“Everyone is aware that these demands are meant to infringe the sovereignty of the state of Qatar,” he said at a news conference in Rome after meeting his Italian counterpart.
“The state of Qatar… is rejecting it as a principle,” he said, adding: “We are willing to engage in providing the proper conditions for further dialogue.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt announced on June 5 they were severing ties with their Gulf neighbour, sparking the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the region in decades.
They accused Doha of supporting extremism and of being too close to regional arch-rival Iran, which Qatar has strongly denied.
The crisis has raised concerns of growing instability in the region, home to some of the world’s largest energy producers and several key Western allies hosting US military facilities.
On June 22 the Arab states presented a list of demands and gave Doha 10 days to comply. The ultimatum is expected to expire at the end of the day on Sunday, though the deadline has not been officially confirmed.
Riyadh and its supporters have already severed air, sea and ground links with Qatar, cutting off vital routes for imports including food.
Threat of further sanctions
Qatari citizens were ordered to leave the countries and various steps were taken against Qatari companies and financial institutions.
It is unclear what further measures will be taken if Qatar fails to meet the demands, but the UAE ambassador to Russia Omar Ghobash warned last week that further sanctions could be imposed.
As well as expelling Doha from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab states could tell their economic partners they need to make a choice between doing business with them or with Qatar, he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Riyadh’s demands include ending Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the closure of Al-Jazeera television, a downgrade of diplomatic ties with Iran and the shutdown of a Turkish military base in the emirate.
Qatar has long pursued a more independent foreign policy than many of its neighbours, who tend to follow the lead of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Doha has said it is ready for talks to end the crisis and Kuwait, which unlike most of its GCC neighbours has not cut ties, has taken the lead in mediation efforts.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also called for compromise and hosted senior Gulf officials, but his efforts have been undermined by remarks from President Donald Trump apparently supporting Riyadh’s position.
Newspapers in the UAE rounded on Qatar on Sunday, with prominent daily The National saying in an editorial: “Qatar’s wrong-headed behaviour is depressingly predictable.”
“A conclusion to the crisis… can only arrive when Doha mends its ways and seeks to answer the Gulf’s concerns. We doubt that day will come soon, even though Qatar must be aware that its actions will deliver profound consequences,” it wrote.
The Qatar Stock Exchange closed down 2.31 percent Sunday following Sheikh Mohammed’s remarks.