Ri­vals ratchet up pres­sure on Qatar with list

Close Al Jazeera, 4 coun­tries in­sist

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - WIL­LIAM MA­CLEAN AND RANIA EL GAMAL

DUBAI: Four Arab states boy­cotting Qatar over al­leged sup­port for ter­ror­ism have sent Doha a cat­a­logue of 13 de­mands, in­clud­ing clos­ing Al Jazeera tele­vi­sion and re­duc­ing ties to their re­gional ad­ver­sary Iran, an of­fi­cial of one of the four coun­tries said.

The de­mands aimed at end­ing the worst Gulf Arab cri­sis in years ap­peared de­signed to quash a two decade-old for­eign pol­icy in which Qatar has punched well above its weight, strid­ing the stage as a peace bro­ker, of­ten in con­flicts in Mus­lim lands.

Doha’s in­de­pen­dent-minded ap­proach, in­clud­ing a doveish line on Iran and sup­port for Is­lamist groups, in par­tic­u­lar the Mus­lim Brother­hood, has in­censed its neighbours who see political Is­lamism as a threat to their dy­nas­tic rule.

The list, com­piled by Saudi Ara­bia, United Arab Emi­rates, Egypt and Bahrain, which cut eco­nomic, diplo­matic and travel ties to Doha on June 5, also de­mands the clos­ing of a Turk­ish mil­i­tary base in Qatar, the of­fi­cial said.

Turkey’s De­fence Min­is­ter Fikri Isik re­jected this, say­ing it rep­re­sented in­ter­fer­ence in Ankara’s re­la­tions with Doha. He sug­gested in­stead Turkey might bol­ster its presence.

“Strength­en­ing the Turk­ish base would be a pos­i­tive step in terms of the Gulf ’s se­cu­rity,” he said. “Re-eval­u­at­ing the base agree­ment with Qatar is not on our agenda.”

Qatar must also an­nounce it is sev­er­ing ties with ter­ror­ist, ide­o­log­i­cal and sec­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the Mus­lim Brother­hood, Is­lamic State, al- Qaeda, Hezbol­lah, and Jab­hat Fateh al Sham, for­merly al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Arab of­fi­cial said, and sur­ren­der all des­ig­nated ter­ror­ists on its ter­ri­tory.

The four coun­tries ac­cuse Qatar of funding ter­ror­ism, fo­ment­ing re­gional in­sta­bil­ity and cosy­ing up to rev­o­lu­tion­ary theoc­racy Iran. Qatar has de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions.

Qatari of­fi­cials did not re­ply im­me­di­ately to re­quests for com­ment. But on Monday, For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man al-Thani said Qatar would not ne­go­ti­ate with the four states un­less they lifted their mea­sures against it.

The coun­tries gave Doha 10 days to com­ply, fail­ing which the list would be­come “void”, the of­fi­cial said with­out elab­o­rat­ing, sug­gest­ing the of­fer to end the dis­pute in re­turn for the 13 steps would no longer be on the table.

“The de­mands are so ag­gres­sive that it makes it close to im­pos­si­ble to cur­rently see a res­o­lu­tion of that con­flict,” said Olivier Jakob, a strate­gist at Switzer­land-based oil con­sul­tancy Petro­ma­trix.

Sev­eral Qataris de­scribed the de­mands as un­rea­son­able. “Imag­ine an­other coun­try de­mand­ing that CNN be closed,” said 40- year- old Haseeb Man­sour, who works for tele­com op­er­a­tor Oore­doo.

The de­mands, handed to Qatar by me­di­a­tor Kuwait also re­quire that Qatar stop in­ter­fer­ing in the four coun­tries’ do­mes­tic and for­eign af­fairs and stop a prac­tice of giv­ing Qatari na­tion­al­ity to cit­i­zens of the four coun­tries, said the of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. Qatar must pay repa­ra­tions to these coun­tries for any dam­age or costs in­curred over the past few years be­cause of Qatari poli­cies. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: AP

Clos­ing Doha-based news network Al Jazeera is one of ri­val Arab coun­tries’ de­mands to end a re­gional cri­sis.

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