Na­tions hud­dle over Qatar re­ply

Arab states to meet on next move, vow ‘timely’ re­sponse

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jon Gambrell, Malak Harb, Hus­sain al-Qatari and Mag­gie Hyde of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Stan­ley Reed of The New York Times; and by Mo­hammed Aly Sergie and Dana Khraiche of Bloomberg News.

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates — A quar­tet of Arab na­tions said they have re­ceived Qatar’s re­sponse to their de­mands for end­ing a diplo­matic cri­sis grip­ping the Per­sian Gulf.

A joint state­ment is­sued early to­day said Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates would re­spond “in a timely man­ner.” It did not elab­o­rate. For­eign min­is­ters from the four coun­tries are to meet later to­day in Cairo.

Be­fore re­ceiv­ing the re­sponse, United Arab Emi­rates For­eign Min­is­ter Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed Al Nahyan de­clined to say what ac­tion the coun­tries may take against Qatar. The United Arab Emi­rates, Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar early last month over claims of sup­port for ex­trem­ist groups and ties with Iran.

Qatar de­nies sup­port­ing ex­trem­ists and has de­fended its warm re­la­tions with Iran; the two coun­tries share a huge un­der­sea nat­u­ral gas field.

Sheikh Ab­dul­lah’s com­ments sug­gest the coun­tries are pre­pared to take fur­ther ac­tion against Qatar as a 48-hour ex­ten­sion of a dead­line for Qatar to ac­cept their con­di­tions draws to a close.

“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.”

“Enough is enough,” he added.

The four coun­tries cut off diplo­matic ties to Qatar on June 5 and re­stricted its ac­cess to their airspace and ports while seal­ing its only land bor­der, with Saudi Ara­bia. They is­sued a 13-point list of de­mands on June 22, giv­ing Qatar 10 days to com­ply.

Af­ter the dead­line ex­pired early on Mon­day, the coun­tries said they would give Qatar an­other 48 hours. The ex­ten­sion came at the re­quest of Kuwait’s 88-year-old ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah, who has been try­ing to me­di­ate, as he did dur­ing a sim­i­lar dis­pute in 2014. That new dead­line ex­pires early to­day.

Qatar’s for­eign min­is­ter, Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al Thani, trav­eled to Kuwait City on Mon­day car­ry­ing a hand­writ­ten note from Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani, ac­cord­ing to the state-run Kuwait News Agency.

Kuwaiti and Qatari of­fi­cials have not re­sponded to ques­tions about what the Qatari let­ter said.

“Any steps taken by th­ese coun­tries in case Qatar fails to re­spond will be taken within the frame­work of in­ter­na­tional law, in­clud­ing the pro­ce­dures that sov­er­eign states have the right to take against an­other coun­try,” United Arab Emi­rates’ Sheikh Ab­dul­lah said with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

The na­tions could im­pose fi­nan­cial sanc­tions or force Qatar out of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, a re­gional body that serves as a coun­ter­bal­ance to Iran.

Some Arab me­dia out­lets have sug­gested a mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion or a change of lead­er­ship in Qatar could be in the off­ing, but of­fi­cials have said those op­tions are not on the ta­ble.

The United Arab Emi­rates for­eign min­is­ter spoke along­side Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel, who said Ger­many sup­ported the UAE’s ef­forts at con­fronting those who fund ex­trem­ists.

“We now have this op­por­tu­nity to reach good re­sults for the ben­e­fit of the whole re­gion. The mat­ter is not re­lated only to the sovereignty of Qatar,” Gabriel said. “We have to come back to com­mon work at the [Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil] and for the Euro­peans this is a very im­por­tant mat­ter. For us, the [coun­cil] is the guar­an­tor of sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in the re­gion.”

Later Tues­day, the Kuwaiti emir dis­patched an en­voy from his court to the Qatari cap­i­tal, Doha, with a let­ter for the Qatari ruler, Kuwait’s state news agency re­ported. It gave no de­tails on the con­tents of the let­ter.

In a joint news con­fer­ence in Doha with Al Thani, the Qatari for­eign min­is­ter, Gabriel said he be­lieved that Qatar de­served a fair re­ply and that he hoped the al­lies would act rea­son­ably. In com­ments trans­lated from Ger­man, he urged di­a­logue to re­solve the dis­pute.

Gabriel said he ex­pects the Saudi-led al­liance to re­ject Qatar’s re­sponse to its con­di­tions for end­ing the cri­sis, af­ter he held two days of talks with of­fi­cials from both sides.

In Doha, with Gabriel at his side, the Qatari for­eign min­is­ter crit­i­cized the four Arab na­tions for try­ing to iso­late Qatar “un­der the ban­ner of fight­ing ter­ror­ism.”

“When mea­sures clothed in this con­text, it is be­cause they think they will be met with in­ter­na­tional sym­pa­thy be­cause they are ‘anti-ter­ror­ism’ mea­sures,” he said.

Qatar’s re­sponse was “in line with the gen­eral prin­ci­ple of pre­serv­ing sovereignty” and not in­ter­fer­ing in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of other coun­tries, Al Thani said in the news con­fer­ence. He de­clined to give de­tails of his coun­try’s of­fer and again re­jected claims that Qatar funded ter­ror­ist groups.

The cri­sis would be solved only through ne­go­ti­a­tion, he said, “re­gard­less of how much the mea­sures es­ca­late” against Qatar.

Also on Tues­day, Qatar said it would dra­mat­i­cally in­crease its pro­duc­tion of nat­u­ral gas — the fuel that made the tiny emi­rate rich and gave it re­gional in­flu­ence.

Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the na­tional oil com­pany, Qatar Pe­tro­leum, said at a news con­fer­ence in Doha that the coun­try’s out­put of liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas would rise 30 per­cent over the next five to seven years. The an­nounce­ment con­firms that Qatar — al­ready the world’s big­gest pro­ducer of liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas — is de­ter­mined to shift back into a phase of rapid pro­duc­tion ex­pan­sion, af­ter years of lit­tle growth.

The in­crease would be the equiv­a­lent of adding about 8 per­cent to the world’s cur­rent sup­ply of the gas.

Early to­day the rat­ings agency Moody’s said it is chang­ing its out­look on Qatar’s econ­omy to neg­a­tive, largely be­cause of the on­go­ing diplo­matic dis­pute.

Moody’s said in a state­ment that “the like­li­hood of a pro­longed pe­riod of un­cer­tainty ex­tend­ing into 2018 has in­creased and a quick res­o­lu­tion of the dis­pute is un­likely over the next few months.”

Moody’s said that “car­ries the risk that Qatar’s sov­er­eign credit fun­da­men­tals could be neg­a­tively af­fected.”

AP/JON GAMBRELL

Emi­rati For­eign Min­is­ter Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed Al Nahyan whis­pers Tues­day to Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the United Arab Emi­rates’ For­eign Min­istry in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emi­rates.

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