Qatar delivers reply to demands of four rivals
DOHA, Qatar — The four Arab nations isolating Qatar added 48 hours Monday to a deadline for the country to respond to their demands.
That was enough time for Qatar’s top diplomat to hand-deliver a response to Kuwait’s ruler.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have plans to meet in Cairo on Wednesday, after the new deadline, to discuss their next moves. In the meantime, Qataris officials maintain that they won’t allow other nations to dictate their foreign policy.
The crisis began June 5, as the four countries cut off diplomatic ties to Qatar over their allegations that the world’s top producer of liquefied natural gas uses its wealth to fund extremist groups and has overly warm ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied funding terrorists, and it maintains communication with Iran in part because the two countries share an offshore natural gas field.
The quartet of countries first restricted Qatar’s access to their airspace and ports while sealing its only land border, which it shares with Saudi Arabia. On June 22, they issued a 13-point list of demands to end the standoff and gave Qatar 10 days to comply.
Early on Monday morning after the deadline had expired, the countries said they would give Qatar another 48 hours after a request by Kuwait’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah. The emir has been trying to mediate an end to the crisis, as he did in a similar
dispute in 2014.
“The response of the four states will then be sent following the study of the Qatari government’s response and assessment of its response to the whole demands,” the countries said in a statement.
Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, traveled later Monday to Kuwait City, carrying a handwritten note from Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, according to the state-run Kuwait News Agency. Kuwaiti and Qatari officials did not respond to questions about what the letter said, though a photograph from the meeting showed Sheikh Sabah reading it.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump spoke with Sheikh Tamim, as well as King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.
Trump “reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology,” a White House statement said. Although Trump believes that unity in the region is important, “the overriding objective of his initiative is the cessation of funding for terrorism,” it said.
A separate statement carried by 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 strategic relations.
Trump later tweeted: “Spoke yesterday with the King of Saudi Arabia about peace in the Middle-East. Interesting things are happening!”
The White House statement suggested that Trump continues to back Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar, despite efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to adopt a more measured approach. Tillerson has suggested that the demands on Qatar may have less to do with terrorism than with long-standing feuds between the region’s ruling families.
Germany’s foreign minister, speaking to reporters on Monday in Saudi Arabia, said he hoped an agreement would be reached between Arab states and Qatar that ends terrorism financing across the region.
Sigmar Gabriel said after meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that the two agreed on the need to end any support for extremist organizations and that he hopes the demands made by Saudi Arabia and the other countries that cut ties with Qatar focus on ending terror financing and incitement. Gabriel is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates and Qatar next.
China’s U.N. ambassador, however, said the best way to resolve the crisis is for the five countries involved to work out a solution among themselves.
Liu Jieyi said at a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday that “we don’t see any other alternative to that.”
“Whatever the countries can do to mend the fences and to get back to good neighborly relations, that would certainly be welcomed by China,” Liu said.
In Egypt, ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, security forces on Sunday arrested the daughter and son-in-law of Youssef El-Qaradawi, who lives in exile in Qatar and was featured in a list of individuals and organizations the Saudi-led alliance says are involved in terrorism. The detentions were reported by the Cairo-based newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm and in a Facebook post by El-Qaradawi’s son, Abdel-Rahman.
The couple are being investigated as suspected members of a “terrorist organization,” the daily reported.
El-Qaradawi is widely regarded as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of Saudi Arabia’s demands of Qatar is that it sever links with the 90-yearold Islamist movement that the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have designated as a terrorist group. No Western nations have labeled the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, though some advisers to Trump have called for that designation in the U.S., noting the group’s calls for a society governed by Shariah law.
The U.S. is allied with Qatar, as well as the four countries lined up against it. Qatar hosts some 10,000 American troops at the sprawling al-Udeid Air Base. The desert facility is home to the forward headquarters of the U.S. Central Command and has been a key staging ground for the war in Afghanistan and the campaign against the Islamic State militant group.
What comes next remains in question. If Qatar doesn’t agree to the demands, the nations could move forward with financial sanctions or push the country out of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional body that serves as a counterbalance to Iran. Some Arab media outlets have gone as far as suggesting a military confrontation or that new leadership be installed in Qatar.
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.”
What comes next remains in question. If Qatar doesn’t agree to the demands, the nations could move forward with financial sanctions or push the country out of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional body that serves as a counterbalance to Iran.
Information for this article was contributed by Maggie Hyde, Jon Gambrell, Adam Schreck, Aya Batrawy, Maamoun Youssef and staff members of The Associated Press; by Liz Sly of The
Washington Post; and by Zainab Fattah of Bloomberg News.