Bloc re­grets ‘neg­a­tive’ Qatar response, boy­cott to re­main

Ger­man FM, UN en­voy in Kuwait Turkey adamant on base

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

CAIRO: Four Arab na­tions seek­ing to iso­late Qatar over its al­leged sup­port for ex­trem­ist groups were irked yes­ter­day by what they said was a “neg­a­tive” response by the tiny Gulf na­tion to their de­mands for end­ing the cri­sis roil­ing the re­gion. Doha’s response, they said, was “not se­ri­ous” and be­trayed Qatar’s “fail­ure” to re­al­ize the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion. They re­frained from slap­ping fur­ther sanc­tions on Qatar, but said their boy­cott of the emi­rate would con­tinue.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lowed a meet­ing by for­eign min­is­ters from the four na­tions - Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt, the United Arab Emi­rates and Bahrain - in Cairo, shortly af­ter they said they had re­ceived Doha’s re­ply. The four ac­cuse Qatar of sup­port­ing ter­ror groups and also of main­tain­ing close re­la­tions with Shi­ite power Iran - Saudi Ara­bia’s neme­sis. They also say Qatar must stop med­dling in their af­fairs.

Egypt’s for­eign min­is­ter, Sameh Shukri, told re­porters Qatar’s response to the Arab states’ 13-point list of de­mands was “neg­a­tive on the whole.” It did not “lay the foun­da­tions for Qatar’s aban­don­ment of the poli­cies it pur­sues. It’s a po­si­tion that does not re­al­ize the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion,” he added. The min­is­ters did not say what their next steps would be - that, they ex­plained, would be an­nounced af­ter fur­ther con­sul­ta­tions. They will meet next in Bahrain, but a date has yet to be set. “We hope wis­dom will pre­vail and Qatar will even­tu­ally make the right de­ci­sions,” Shukri added.

The Emi­rati For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said Qatar was only in­ter­ested in “de­struc­tion, in­cite­ment, ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism”, rather than in good neigh­borly re­la­tions. Shukri said Qatar’s poli­cies could not be al­lowed to con­tinue and vowed that Egyp­tian blood would not be shed in vain, a ref­er­ence to deadly at­tacks by mil­i­tants on Egyp­tian army and se­cu­rity forces. Cairo has long ac­cused Qatar of sup­port­ing ex­trem­ists in Egypt.

Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel, on a tour of Gulf coun­tries, said he was cau­tiously op­ti­mistic the feud­ing states would reach a so­lu­tion once they met for talks. “But it is also pos­si­ble that it will con­tinue to be dif­fi­cult for some days,” he told re­porters in Kuwait where he met HH the Amir, who is me­di­at­ing in the cri­sis.

The UN’s po­lit­i­cal chief, Jef­frey Felt­man, is also in Kuwait for talks on end­ing the diplo­matic cri­sis. Felt­man, who is UN un­der-sec­re­tary-gen­eral for po­lit­i­cal af­fairs, “is there cur­rently to dis­cuss with a broad range of in­ter­locu­tors the on­go­ing cri­sis in the re­gion and other con­flicts,” said UN spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric. UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res dis­patched Felt­man to the Gulf af­ter meet­ing with Qatar’s for­eign min­is­ter last week. Felt­man ar­rived in Kuwait from the United Arab Emi­rates and will travel to Doha later this week. The United Na­tions has backed ef­forts by Kuwait to me­di­ate an end to the cri­sis and has also of­fered to help bro­ker a so­lu­tion.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump called on all par­ties in the dis­pute to “ne­go­ti­ate con­struc­tively” and to “stop ter­ror­ist fi­nanc­ing and dis­credit ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy”. A White House state­ment said Trump’s call for a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment came in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del-Fat­tah Al-Sisi. The dis­pute erupted early last month when the four Arab coun­tries cut ties to the FIFA 2022 World Cup host. Qatar de­nies sup­port­ing ex­trem­ists and has de­fended its warm re­la­tions with Iran; the two coun­tries share a mas­sive un­der­sea nat­u­ral gas field.

The four na­tions is­sued a 13-point list of de­mands on June 22, giv­ing Qatar 10 days to com­ply. They later ex­tended the dead­line by an­other 48 hours at the re­quest of Kuwait, which is try­ing to me­di­ate the cri­sis. That sec­ond dead­line ex­pired early yes­ter­day morn­ing. On Tues­day, in­tel­li­gence chiefs from the four Arab coun­tries met in Cairo, likely to dis­cuss the cri­sis, ac­cord­ing to Egypt’s state MENA news agency.

Qatar’s response was not made public but it had pre­vi­ously called the de­mands - which in­clude shut­ting down its Al-Jazeera satel­lite news net­work, clos­ing a Turk­ish mil­i­tary base in the coun­try and pay­ing resti­tu­tion - an af­front to its sovereignty. The cri­sis has be­come a global con­cern as nei­ther side ap­pears to be back­ing down.

Mean­while, Sheikh Ab­dul­lah, the UAE’s for­eign min­is­ter, has kept up the pres­sure on Qatar. “To de­feat ter­ror­ism, we must con­front ex­trem­ism, we must con­front hate speech, we must con­front the har­bor­ing and shel­ter­ing of ex­trem­ists and terrorists, and fund­ing them,” he said. “Un­for­tu­nately, we in this re­gion see that our sis­ter na­tion of Qatar has al­lowed and har­bored and en­cour­aged all of this.”

Qatar’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al-Thani, crit­i­cized the four Arab na­tions for try­ing to iso­late Qatar “un­der the ban­ner of fight­ing ter­ror­ism”, adding the ac­cu­sa­tions cited when they sev­ered ties a month ago “were clearly de­signed to cre­ate anti-Qatar sen­ti­ment in the West”. He told a ses­sion of Lon­don’s Chatham House think­tank that Doha was con­tin­u­ing to call for di­a­logue to set­tle the row. “(This is) de­spite the sep­a­ra­tion of 12,000 fam­i­lies, de­spite the siege that is a clear ag­gres­sion and an in­sult to all in­ter­na­tional treaties, bod­ies and ju­ris­dic­tions,” he said.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan was quoted as say­ing in an in­ter­view with Ger­man weekly Die Zeit pub­lished yes­ter­day that “what is be­ing done with Qatar runs counter to in­ter­na­tional law.” He said the Arab states’ de­mand for the Turk­ish base to be closed shows “a lack of re­spect to­ward us and Qatar” and added that “the Amer­i­cans are also there, with 9,000 sol­diers, and so are the French”. “Why are the Saudis dis­turbed by us and not by that? This is un­ac­cept­able,” Er­do­gan said. He also crit­i­cized a de­mand for the clo­sure of broad­caster Al-Jazeera, say­ing Ankara “will sup­port Qatar in ev­ery way, be­cause we share the same val­ues, have good re­la­tions and we can­not be silent about the in­jus­tice.”

A se­nior Turk­ish of­fi­cial later said only Ankara and Doha will de­cide on the fate of the Turk­ish mil­i­tary base. Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Veysi Kay­nak told AP that the Arab states’ pres­sure for Qatar to shut­ter the Turk­ish base amounts to a vi­o­la­tion of Qatar’s sov­er­eign rights and urged the Arab coun­tries to over­come their dif­fer­ences “in a brotherly” man­ner. Kay­nak said “those who will make the de­ci­sion (about the base) are the two coun­tries that made the agree­ment, the pact: Qatar and the Repub­lic of Turkey”. He re­it­er­ated Ankara’s po­si­tion that the Turk­ish base is for the ben­e­fit of the re­gion’s se­cu­rity and that it “is not an oc­cu­pa­tion, an an­nex­a­tion force”.

The credit rat­ings agency Moody’s warned early yes­ter­day that it had set Qatar’s eco­nomic out­look to neg­a­tive over the cri­sis. “Public ex­changes be­tween the var­i­ous par­ties in re­cent weeks and pre­vi­ous pe­ri­ods of height­ened ten­sions be­tween Qatar and other GCC coun­tries sug­gest that a quick res­o­lu­tion is un­likely and that the stale­mate may con­tinue for some time,” Moody’s said. “De­pend­ing on the du­ra­tion and po­ten­tial fur­ther es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions, the dis­pute could neg­a­tively af­fect Qatar’s eco­nomic and fis­cal strength. Ab­sent a swift res­o­lu­tion, eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity will likely be ham­pered by the mea­sures im­posed so far.” — Agen­cies

Bahraini For­eign Min­is­ter Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khal­ifa (left), Saudi For­eign Min­is­ter Adel Al-Jubeir (sec­ond left), UAE Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (sec­ond right) and Egyp­tian For­eign Min­is­ter Sameh Shukri (right) meet in the Egyp­tian cap­i­tal Cairo yes­ter­day. (Inset) Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed Al-Thani speaks at the Chatham House think tank in Lon­don yes­ter­day. — AFP

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