Qatar de­liv­ers re­ply to de­mands of four ri­vals

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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