Qatar re­sponds to de­mands, dead­line ex­tended by 48 hrs

Trump calls Gulf lead­ers FMs to meet in Cairo Saudi king skips G20 meet

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Qatar yes­ter­day re­sponded to a list of de­mands from Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies af­ter they agreed to give a de­fi­ant Doha an­other 48 hours to ad­dress their griev­ances. De­tails of the re­sponse were not im­me­di­ately avail­able, but a Gulf of­fi­cial told AFP that Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al-Thani had de­liv­ered it dur­ing a short visit to Kuwait, which is act­ing as a me­di­a­tor in the cri­sis.

Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Bahrain and Egypt had an­nounced in the early hours of yes­ter­day they were push­ing back a dead­line for Qatar to agree to a list of 13 de­mands they is­sued on June 22. A joint state­ment said they were ex­tend­ing the ul­ti­ma­tum, which had been due to ex­pire at the end of the day on Sun­day, at the re­quest of HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

The de­mands in­cluded Doha end­ing sup­port for the Mus­lim Brother­hood, clos­ing broad­caster Al-Jazeera, down­grad­ing diplo­matic ties with Iran and shut­ting down a Turk­ish mil­i­tary base in the Emi­rate. Sheikh Mo­hammed had ear­lier said the list of de­mands was “made to be re­jected” and yes­ter­day, Bri­tish lawyers for Qatar de­nounced the de­mands as “an af­front to in­ter­na­tional law”. “They are rem­i­nis­cent of the ex­treme and puni­tive con­duct of ‘bully’ states that have his­tor­i­cally re­sulted in war,” the lawyers said in a state­ment.

Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies an­nounced on June 5 they were sev­er­ing ties with their Gulf neigh­bor, spark­ing the worst diplo­matic cri­sis to hit the re­gion in decades. They ac­cused Qatar of sup­port­ing ex­trem­ism and of be­ing too close to Saudi Ara­bia’s re­gional archri­val Iran, which Doha has strongly de­nied.

The cri­sis has raised con­cerns of grow­ing in­sta­bil­ity in the re­gion, home to some of the world’s largest en­ergy ex­porters and sev­eral key Western al­lies who host US mil­i­tary bases.

Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel, who yes­ter­day started a tour of sev­eral Gulf states, called for “se­ri­ous di­a­logue” to end the cri­sis. “We are wor­ried that the dis­trust and the dis­unity could weaken all the par­ties con­cerned as well as the en­tire peninsula,” said Gabriel, who will visit Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates and Qatar.

Riyadh and its sup­port­ers have al­ready sev­ered air, sea and ground links with Qatar, cut­ting off vi­tal routes for im­ports in­clud­ing food. They also or­dered Qatari ci­ti­zens to leave their ter­ri­to­ries and took var­i­ous steps against Qatari firms and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. It is un­clear what fur­ther mea­sures will be taken if Qatar fails to meet the de­mands, but the UAE’s am­bas­sador to Russia Omar Ghobash warned last week that fur­ther sanc­tions could be im­posed. As well as tak­ing steps to ex­pel Qatar from the six-mem­ber Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, Riyadh and its al­lies could tell their eco­nomic part­ners to choose be­tween busi­ness with them or with Doha, he told Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per.

Mean­while, Qatari of­fi­cials have said they won’t back down ei­ther. Al-Jazeera, the satel­lite news net­work funded by Qatar that the coun­tries de­mand be shut down, is­sued a video mes­sage say­ing: “We too have de­mands. ... We de­mand press free­dom.”“Qatar is not an easy coun­try to be swal­lowed by any­one,” Qatari De­fense Min­is­ter Khalid bin Mo­hammed Al-At­tiyah told Sky News on Sun­day. “We are ready. We stand ready to de­fend our coun­try. I hope that we don’t come to a stage where, you know, a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion is made.”

Qatar has long pur­sued a more in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy than many of its neigh­bors, who tend to fol­low the lead of re­gional pow­er­house Saudi Ara­bia. Doha has said it is ready for talks to end the cri­sis. Kuwait, which un­like most of its GCC neigh­bors has not cut ties with Qatar, has been head­ing up 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.

Trump spoke sep­a­rately on Sun­day with the Saudi king, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and the Qatari emir on his con­cerns over the dis­pute, the White House said. Trump “un­der­scored that unity in the re­gion is crit­i­cal,” the state­ment said, but also “re­it­er­ated the im­por­tance of stop­ping ter­ror­ist fi­nanc­ing and dis­cred­it­ing ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy”. A sep­a­rate state­ment car­ried on the of­fi­cial Qatar News Agency said the emir’s dis­cus­sion with Trump touched on the need to fight ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism in all its forms and sources, and was a chance for the coun­tries to re­view their bi­lat­eral strate­gic re­la­tions. Trump later tweeted: “Spoke yes­ter­day with the King of Saudi Ara­bia about peace in the Mid­dle-East. In­ter­est­ing things are hap­pen­ing!”

Egypt will host the for­eign min­is­ters of Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates and Bahrain to­mor­row to dis­cuss “fu­ture steps in deal­ing with Qatar as well as ex­change of points of view and the eval­u­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing in­ter­na­tional and re­gional con­tacts in this con­nec­tion,” Egypt’s For­eign Min­istry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said. The Ger­man gov­ern­ment also an­nounced that Saudi Ara­bia’s King Sal­man had can­celled plans to at­tend this week’s G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg. — Agen­cies

KUWAIT: HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (cen­ter right) looks at a letter from Qatar’s emir given to him by Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al-Thani (cen­ter left) yes­ter­day. — AP

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