Qatar blockade: Arab states list 13 demands to end crisis

AP says it obtained document listing demands, including that Qatar shut Al Jazeera and close Turkish military base within 10 days

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash says Doha has become a ‘safe haven’ for extremists (AFP)

MEE and agencies

Thursday 22 June 2017 20:43 UTC

Four Arab states boycotting Qatar over alleged support for terrorism have sent Doha a list of 13 demands including closing Al Jazeera television and reducing ties to Iran, an official of one of the four countries said.

The demands aimed at ending the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years appear designed to quash a two decade-old foreign policy in which Qatar has punched well above its weight, striding the stage as a peace broker, often in conflicts in Muslim lands.

The list compiled by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain also demands the closing of a Turkish military base, the official told Reuters.

Turkey has since rejected these calls.

Qatar must also announce it is severing ties with terrorist, ideological and sectarian organisations including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, he said, and surrender all designated terrorists on its territory.

Doha’s independent-minded approach, including a dovish line on Iran and support for Islamist groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, has incensed some of its neighbours who see political Islamism as a threat to their dynastic rule.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt imposed a blockade on Doha late last month, closing their airspace and territorial waters to Qatari planes and ships. They have also severed diplomatic ties with the small Gulf state.

But as the crisis enters its fifth week, the US State Department on Tuesday urged the states allied against Doha to make their demands public and detail their accusations against Qatar.

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash on Thursday listed a few of the Gulf allies’ grievances in an interview with Saudi-owned AlHayat newspaper. He said the US had erred when it asked Gulf nations to release the demands. He said the list had already been handed over to Washington, which he said had promised to correct Tuesday’s statement.

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The countries boycotting Qatar handed a list of 13 demands to Doha via Kuwait on Friday morning, which included closing Al Jazeera and shutting Turkey’s military base in the tiny Gulf nation, according to an Associated Press report.

The AP added that the list stipulates Qatar must sever diplomatic ties with Iran as well as repay an unspecified amount of money to the boycotting countries. The list also says that each demand must be complied with within 10 days.

According to AP, the list commands Qatar to halt funding to other news publications, including Middle East Eye. The Middle East Eye is not funded by Qatar, a spokesman for the British company said.

According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalise citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.

While the list has not been officially confirmed, AP said it came from “one of the countries involved in the dispute”.

Although in his interview, Gargash repeated ambiguous accusations about Doha supporting terrorism, he also mentioned specific groups in Libya, including Shura Benghazi — a coalition of Islamist militias that include factions blacklisted by the US. Doha denies supporting terrorist groups.

Gargash called on Qatar to stop harbouring individuals who are sanctioned regionally and internationally for terrorism, as he put it. He cited a list of 59 Qatar-linked individuals and groups that included Doha-based charities.

He described Doha as a “safe haven” for extremism.

Gargash also criticised Qatar’s support for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. “The demands also relate to dragging the Gulf into radical policies with Hamas and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood,” he told AlHayat. “The main concern for these demands is to stop Qatar from supporting terrorism.”

The Emirati minister referenced a move towards firmness in the international approach to terrorism, saying that fighting extremism has become a priority for the United States.

Although the US State Department and Pentagon are calling for a swift end to the crisis, US President Donald Trump has voiced full support for the Saudi-led sanctions against Qatar, accusing Doha of historically funding terrorism “at a very high level”.

Gulf officials have also accused Qatar-based media outlets, namely Al Jazeera, of promoting extremism and interfering in the internal affairs of Egypt and Bahrain, among other countries.

Gargash denounced Al Jazeera, but did not elaborate on whether closing the network is among the demands for ending the diplomatic impasse.

“It is a news broadcast for the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s not what it used to be 10 years ago,” he said. “It is a mouthpiece for extremism. It has whitewashed personalities that have becomes symbols for terrorism.”

The UAE foreign minister described the deployment of Turkish troops to Qatar after the blockade as a “dangerous development,” saying that Ankara is trying to take advantage of the crisis to expand its regional influence, but it also wants to maintain its relations with Saudi Arabia.

Qatari officials did not reply immediately to requests for comment. But on Monday, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar would not negotiate with the four states unless they lifted their measures against Doha.

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