Rivals ratchet up pressure on Qatar with list
Close Al Jazeera, 4 countries insist
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
Closing Doha-based news network Al Jazeera is one of rival Arab countries’ demands to end a regional crisis.