As Gulf deadline looms, Qatar says demands 'made to be rejected'
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Qatar faces possible further sanctions by Arab states that have severed ties with Doha over allegations of links to terrorism, as a deadline to accept a series of demands is expected to expire.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the demands were made to be rejected, adding that the Arab ultimatum was aimed not at tackling terrorism but at curtailing his country's sovereignty.
He added that no one had the right to issue an ultimatum to a sovereign country.
The feud erupted last month when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar, over accusations that it sponsors terrorism. They also allege Qatar was given a deadline in which 13 demands must be met in order for them to lift a crippling blockade on the tiny, but oil-rich, Gulf nation. This deadline has not been confirmed, however.
"Qatar must end support of extremists"
The four nations also demand that Doha end its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups, close down the Al-Jazeera television network, downgrade its diplomatic ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base in its territory. Doha is Ankara’s most loyal ally in the region, if not the world: on the night of the attempted military coup in Turkey, the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was the first leader to telephone Erdogan to offer his backing.
Qatar's Gulf critics accuse Al Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected the accusations and said it maintains editorial independence.
The United Arab Emirates has warned that Doha should take the demands seriously or face "divorce" from its Gulf neighbours. Already, they have stopped Qatar Airways from using their airspace, closed off the small country's sole land border with Saudi Arabia – a vital route for its food imports - and blocked Qatari ships from using their ports.
Qatar, which vehemently denies the allegations that it supports or funds terrorism, has said the effects of the blockade are more devastating than the Berlin Wall.
The UAE ambassador to Russia has said Qatar could face fresh sanctions if it does not comply with the demands.
Worst crisis in years
According to the list, they are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by the four countries for terrorism and provide detailed information about opposition figures that Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations.
Kuwait is the official arbitrator for seeking a settlement in what has been described as the worst Gulf crisis in years, though the United States is also attempting to mediate.
Washington has cautioned that some of the demands would be difficult for Qatar to accept and has asked the Saudis for a clear list of grievances that are "reasonable and actionable".
If Qatar agrees to comply with the demands, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
"We in Qatar are prepared to engage in dialogue positively, but in accordance with the international norms and standards that govern any dialogue as per international law," Sheikh Mohammed responded.
The campaign to isolate Qatar is disrupting trade in commodities from crude oil to metals and food. It also raises the prospect of a shock to the global gas market, where the Gulf state is a major participant.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)