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Demands presented unreasonable: Doha

Amir hopes Gulf rift heals

DOHA, June 24, (Agencies): Qatar said Saturday that a 13-point list of demands made by Saudi Arabia and its allies impinged on its sovereignty and failed to meet US expectations they be “reasonable”.

Meanwhile, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah expressed hope Friday a rift among Arab and Gulf countries would be mended to pave way for security, stability and prosperity in the GCC countries.

His Highness the Amir expressed his hopes during phone calls with Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al- Nahyan, and Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. His Highness the Amir and the Gulf leaders discussed developments in the region, particularly the tension in relations between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on one side and Qatar on the other.

The four Arab governments delivered the demands to Qatar through Kuwait on Thursday, more than two weeks after severing all ties with the emirate and imposing an embargo. The document has not been published but has been widely leaked and the demands are sweeping in their scope. They require Doha to join Riyadh and its allies in outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood, which it has long supported.

They also require it to close Iran’s embassy and a base on its territory operated by its ally Turkey, as well as to shut Al- Jazeera television. Qatar is also required to end all contacts with opposition groups in the four countries — Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Qatar’s first response to the demands, government communications director Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani said on Saturday that they went far beyond the four governments’ stated aim of combating terrorism.

“This blockade is not aimed at fighting terrorism but at impinging on Qatar’s sovereignty and interfering in its foreign policy,” Sheikh Saif said. He recalled that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said on Wednesday that Washington wanted a clear list of grievances that was “reasonable and actionable”.

This list “does not meet those standards,” he said. Saudi Arabia and its allies have put enormous pressure on Qatar to meet their demands. The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, warned on Friday that Qatar should “deal seriously” with the 13 points or face “divorce” from its neighbours.

The rift between the US Gulf allies has been awkward for Washington. Tillerson has sought to mediate but the White House has been more hands-off, describing the diplomatic crisis as a “family issue” on Friday. Meshal Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, tweeted that the list was meant to “punish Qatar for its independence”.

Qatar was warned by one of its most hawkish critics in the region that unless it meets the list of demands, Doha faces “divorce” from its Gulf neighbours. Gargash said Qatar should yield to the demands. “It would be wiser that (Qatar) deal seriously with the demands and concerns of the neighbours or a divorce will take place,” he wrote on Twitter.

The demands confirm that “the crisis is profound,” Gargash said, adding Qatar had leaked the document containing the demands. Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Gargash called for guarantees from Western countries to help resolve the row.

“If Qatar follows the path of wisdom … we would need a system of guarantees and controls” in order to implement an accord with Doha, he said, calling for “European and American guarantees”. Al-Jazeera, one of the largest news organisations in the world, responded to the demands by saying it “deplores” calls for it to be taken off air.

“We in the network believe that any call for closing down Al-Jazeera is nothing but an attempt to silence the freedom of expression in the region and to suppress people’s right to information,” said the broadcaster. In the other official response out of Qatar, its Human Rights Committee said the demands represented “gross violations” of basic rights.

Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. As well as cutting diplomatic ties, Qatar’s neighbours closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate’s only land border, vital for its food imports.

Qatar is home to the largest US base in the region, Al-Udeid, and Bahrain is home to the Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy. Tillerson has urged a diplomatic solution, and Washington has been pushing for a clear list of grievances that are “reasonable and actionable”. His spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday the United States was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had failed to present details justifying their embargo on Qatar. US President Donald Trump, however, has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia in the crisis.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Friday that any conditions placed on Qatar should be “measured and realistic”.

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