Qatar on Saturday denounced a sweeping list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies in an escalating Gulf diplomatic crisis as unreasonable and an impingement on the emirate’s sovereignty.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want Qatar to meet the 13-point ultimatum in return for an end to a nearly 3-week-old diplomatic and trade “blockade” of the emirate.
Qatar has been given 10 days to meet the demands, which apparently includes a call to close down broadcaster Al-Jazeera, but Doha said the requests were unrealistic.
Qatar Attorney General Ali Bin Fetais Al-Marri speaks to reporters in Doha on June 20. (AFP-Yonhap)
“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning -- the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy,” said Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed al-Thani, head of Qatar‘s government communications office.
“The US secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was ‘reasonable and actionable.’
“The British foreign secretary asked that the demands be ‘measured and realistic.’ This list does not satisfy that criteria.”
The four Arab governments delivered the demands to Qatar through mediator Kuwait on Thursday, more than two weeks after severing all ties with the emirate and imposing an embargo.
The document has not been published but has been widely leaked and the demands are sweeping in their scope.
They include the closure of Al-Jazeera television, a long-standing source of conflict between Doha and neighboring countries which accuse it of fomenting regional strife.
The ultimatum also includes calls for Doha to cut ties to groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State group, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.
Qatar has also been asked to hand over opposition figures wanted by its three neighbors and Egypt and to downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran.
Notably, it has also been told to shut down a Turkish military base in the emirate.
Qatar‘s Foreign Ministry said it was “studying” the list, “in order to prepare an appropriate response.”
Meshal Hamad al-Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, tweeted that the list was meant to “punish Qatar for its independence.”
Qatar was warned by one of its most hawkish critics in the region that unless it meets the list of demands, Doha faces “divorce” from its Gulf neighbors.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE‘s state minister for foreign affairs, said Qatar should yield to the demands.
“It would be wiser that (Qatar) deal seriously with the demands and concerns of the neighbors or a divorce will take place,” he wrote on Twitter.
The demands confirm that “the crisis is profound,” Gargash said, adding Qatar had leaked the document containing the demands.
Speaking at a news conference Saturday, Gargash called for guarantees from Western countries to help resolve the row.
“If Qatar follows the path of wisdom ... we would need a system of guarantees and controls” in order to implement an accord with Doha, he said, calling for “European and American guarantees.”
Al-Jazeera, one of the largest news organizations in the world, responded to the demands by saying it “deplores” calls for it to be taken off air.
”We in the network believe that any call for closing down Al-Jazeera is nothing but an attempt to silence the freedom of expression in the region and to suppress people’s right to information,” said the broadcaster.
In the other official response out of Qatar, its Human Rights Committee said the demands represented “gross violations” of basic rights.
Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
As well as cutting diplomatic ties, Qatar’s neighbors closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate’s only land border, vital for its food imports.
Qatar is home to the largest US base in the region, Al-Udeid, and Bahrain is home to the Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged a diplomatic solution, and Washington has been pushing for a clear list of grievances that are “reasonable and actionable.”
His spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday the United States was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had failed to present details justifying their embargo on Qatar.
US President Donald Trump, however, has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia in the crisis.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Friday that any conditions placed on Qatar should be “measured and realistic.” (AFP)