‘NOT EASY TO SWALLOW’ … QATAR WARNS ON MILITARY INTERVENTION
KUWAIT CITY, July 3, (Agencies): Qatar on Monday responded to a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies after they agreed to give a defiant Doha another 48 hours to address their grievances. Details of the response were not immediately available, but a Gulf official told AFP that Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani had delivered it during a short visit to Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator in the crisis. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had announced in the early hours of Monday they were pushing back a deadline for Qatar to agree to a list of 13 demands they issued on June 22.
A joint statement said they were extending the ultimatum, which had been due to expire at the end of the day on Sunday, at the request of Kuwait’s Amir. The demands included Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood, closing broadcaster Al-Jazeera, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base in the emirate. Sheikh Mohammed had earlier said the list of demands was “made to be rejected” and on Monday British lawyers for Qatar denounced the demands as “an affront to international law”.
“They are reminiscent of the extreme and punitive conduct of ‘bully’ states that have historically resulted in war,” the lawyers said in a statement. Meanwhile, Qataris signed a wall bearing a black-stencil likeness of their ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as officials in the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup maintain that they won’t allow other nations to dictate their foreign policy.
The crisis began June 5, as the countries cut off diplomatic ties to Qatar over their allegations that the world’s top producer of liquefied natural gas uses it wealth to fund extremist groups and has overly warm ties to Iran.
Qatar long has denied funding terrorists, while it maintains communication with Iran as the two countries share a massive 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. They later issued a 13-point list of demands on June 22 to end the standoff and gave Qatar 10 days to comply.
Trump voices concern
Meanwhile, US 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. The White House said Trump urged unity and reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology.
A separate statement carried on the official Qatar News Agency said the Amir’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 bilateral strategic relations. Trump later tweeted: “Spoke yesterday with the King of Saudi Arabia about peace in the Middle-East. Interesting things are happening!” Qatar, like the countries lined up against it, is a US ally.
It hosts some 10,000 American troops at the sprawling al-Udeid Air Base. The desert facility is home to the forward headquarters of the US Central Command and has been a key staging ground for the campaign against the Islamic State group and the war in Afghanistan.
What comes next remains in question. If Qatar doesn’t agree to the demands, the nations could push forward with financial sanctions or pushing 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 new leadership be installed in Qatar.
On Wednesday, the four countries will meet in Cairo to discuss “future steps in dealing with Qatar as well as exchange of points of view and the evaluation of the existing international and regional contacts in this connection,” Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said. 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.” ‘Can’t be swallowed’ “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.”
Egypt to host FMs
Egypt will host the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Wednesday to discuss the crisis with Qatar, Cairo’s foreign ministry said. The ministers will meet “to follow developments… concerning relations with Qatar,” it said in a statement Sunday evening. The four countries announced on June 5 they were severing ties with their Gulf neighbour, accusing it of backing “terrorism” and being too close to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.
Call for serious dialogue
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who on Monday started a tour of several Arab states, called for a “serious dialogue” to end the crisis following the de facto blockade of Qatar by its neighbours. “Since many weeks, the brotherly countries and neighbours of the Arabian peninsula have been locked in a conflict that has fuelled concern,” Gabriel said in a statement.
“We are worried that the distrust and the disunity could weaken all the parties concerned as well as the entire peninsula,” said Gabriel, who will visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Gabriel called for a “serious dialogue between the parties” to resolve the crisis, adding that while Berlin was “not taking sides, the conflict … affects both us and our interests.” “This is true of the fight against the Islamic State but also for the stability of a region that has been particularly marked by crises, tensions and war.” The crisis has raised concerns of growing instability in the region, home to some of the world’s largest energy producers and several key Western allies hosting US military facilities
Qatar’s central bank is suspending its monthly auction of Treasury bills, which would normally occur at this time of month, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. Sanctions against Qatar by other Gulf Arab states have pressured liquidity in the Qatari money market; last week the three-month Qatar interbank offered rate rose as high as a multiyear peak of 2.44 percent, from below 2 percent before the diplomatic crisis erupted on June 5. At its last bills auction a month ago, the central bank sold 690 million riyals ($190 million) of T-bills.