Immediately after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf State client shiekdoms released an ultimatum containing 13 demands to which Qatar must agree as a precondition for the resumption of diplomatic ties and an end of the Saudi economic and naval blockade, the tiny kingdom on the Persian Gulf described the ultimatum as neither “reasonable” nor “realistic”, and claimed it would infringe on Qatar’s sovereignty.
“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning – the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy” said Sheikh Saif Al Thani, of Qatar’s official communications office, according to Bloomberg.
The full list contained demands such as reducing Qatar’s diplomatic representation in Iran, cancelling the Turkish military base being established there (Turkey has already balked at the threat), severing ties with terrorist organizations, shutting down Al Jazeera and all affiliated channels, and so on. The demands are explicitly aimed at dismantling Qatar’s two-decade-old interventionist foreign policy, which has reflected the clout generated by its vast natural gas and oil wealth but incensed conservative Arab peers over its alleged support for extremist groups they regard as threats to their dynastic rule.
Al Thani dismissed the demands and said the list is “under review”, but only “out of respect for our brothers in Kuwait” whose emissary delivered the Saudi demands on Friday (22 June). Al Thani said that the demands do not meet the US and UK criteria for “reasonable and realistic measures.”
Meanwhile Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said it will soon issue an official response, one which we doubt Saudi Arabia will like as the bid/ask in the early stage of the negotiations is being established.
“The State of Qatar is currently studying this paper, the demands contained therein and the foundations on which they were based, in order to prepare an appropriate response,” the ministry told Channel News Asia.
On Friday, Qatar’s news outlet Al Jazeera responded to Saudi demands that it be shut down as part of the “renormalization” process. “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,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
“By accepting those demands and conditions Qatar will be subject to international accountability and violating its commitments regarding human rights conventions,” Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee said in a statement cited by Reuters.
Meanwhile, a senior United Arab Emirates official told Reuters what would happen if Qatar refused to comply with the Arab ultimatum, saying there would be a “parting of ways.”
“The alternative is not escalation, the alternative is parting of ways, because it is very difficult for us to maintain a collective grouping,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters.
Gargash urged Qatar to meet the demands. “It would be wiser that [Qatar] deal seriously with the demands and concerns of the neighbors or a divorce will take place,” Anwar Gargash said on Twitter in Arabic, adding, that “the crisis is profound.”
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash
In other words, another attempt at a backdoor deal orchestrated by Saudi Arabia failed because someone leaked something, only this time it didn’t involve Trump being a KGB secret agent.
Gargash said that if Qatar fails to comply within the 10-day timeline set out in the ultimatum, it will be isolated. But he did not make clear what more could be done since the four Arab nations have already cut diplomatic relations with Doha and severed most commercial ties.
Despite verbal assurances that there will be no further escalation, Qatar is preparing for the worst, as two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armored vehicles have arrived in Doha since the worst crisis among Gulf Arab states for years erupted on June 5.
The uncompromising positions adopted by both sides leave little prospect for a quick end to the crisis. The sanctions have disrupted Qatar’s main import routes by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from big container ships docked in the United Arab Emirates. But Qatar so far has avoided economic collapse by quickly finding alternative channels (mainly through Iran which made the Saudis even more pissed off) and says its huge financial reserves will meet any challenges.
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