Arab states send Qatar steep demands

The crisis is the greatest faced by the Gulf region in decades Photo: REUTERS[/caption]

Four Arab states have sent Qatar a list of 13 demands it must meet if it wants them to lift their sanctions.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are asking the Gulf state to shut down its broadcaster, Al Jazeera. They are also asking Qatar to reduce ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base – all within 10 days. Qatar, which sought to raise its profile in recent years, denies funding terrorism and fostering instability. It has been subjected to more than two weeks of unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions, in the worst political crisis among Gulf countries in decades.   There was no immediate response from Qatar but Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said earlier that it would not negotiate until the punitive measures were lifted. He also denied his country supported “any terrorist organisation”.

A murky business: analysis by Lyse Doucet, BBC chief international correspondent

This fight is a murky business in the region. Money from official and private sources has flowed to armed groups from most Gulf states for years. In Syria’s war, it often amounted to sacks of cash dropped at hotels in Turkey. That is where accountability often ended as money moved across the border to messy battlefields. Qatar repeatedly came under criticism in many capitals for allegedly backing the al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which was previously known as al-Nusra Front and is one of the most formidable jihadist groups battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. But other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, also fund hardline Islamist fighters.
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What are the other demands?

According to the Associated Press news agency, which obtained a copy of the list, Qatar must also:
  • Sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in other Arab states
  • Refuse to naturalise citizens from the four countries and expel those currently on its territory, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs
  • Hand over all individuals who are wanted by the four countries for terrorism
  • Stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the US
  • Provide detailed information about opposition figures whom Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations
  • Align itself politically, economically and otherwise with the Gulf Co-operation Council
  • Stop funding other news outlets in addition to Al Jazeera, including Arabi21 and Middle East Eye
  • Pay an unspecified sum in compensation
An unnamed official from one of the four countries told Reuters news agency that Qatar was also being asked to sever links with so-called Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah. According to the document seen by AP, Qatar is being asked to shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, expel any members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard and only conduct trade with Iran that complies with US sanctions.

Why is Al Jazeera being targeted?

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="976"]The newsroom at the headquarters of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera English-language channel in Doha, 7 February Al Jazeera is one of the biggest names in international broadcasting Photo: REUTERS[/caption]
The document specifies that both Al Jazeera and all of its affiliates must be shut down. Al Jazeera, which has an English-language branch, is one of the most widely watched Arabic satellite channels. Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia’s close ally, Egypt, have long accused the broadcaster of providing a platform for Islamist movements and encouraging dissent – claims the broadcaster has denied.
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What if Qatar doesn’t meet the demands?

If ten days pass and Qatar has failed to comply, the list becomes “void”, the Reuters source said, without elaborating. It would appear that at least some of the demands are unacceptable to Qatar. Foreign Minister Thani said this week his country would not accept any “foreign dictations” and “rejected discussing any matter related to the Al Jazeera channel as it considered it an internal affair”.

Who is helping Qatar?

Turkey has been supplying Qatar with food and other goods by air since the sanctions started, and dispatched its first ship carrying food this week, Reuters reports. Exports from Turkey to the Gulf state have tripled from their normal levels to $32.5m since the sanctions, Turkish Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci said on Thursday. Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci was quoted as saying that 105 planeloads of supplies had been sent but the airlifting supplies was not sustainable in the long run.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="976"]Turkish APC in Doha, Qatar, 18 June Turkey keeps a small number of armoured vehicles in Qatar    photo: REUTERS[/caption]
The Turkish military base in Qatar was set up under an agreement signed in 2017. Two dozen more Turkish soldiers and five armoured cars arrived in Qatar on Thursday, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports. Turkey already has some 90 soldiers deployed at the base. Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik was quoted by Reuters as saying any demand for the base’s closure would represent interference in Ankara’s relations with Qatar. Qatar is also supplied by Iran, which sends about 1,100 tonnes of fruit and vegetables each day by sea, Iran’s Fars news agency reports. It has also opened its airspace to flights to and from Qatar, which has been banned from using Saudi and other countries’ airspace.
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Where is America in this?

The list of demands was announced after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Qatar’s neighbours to make their demands “reasonable and actionable”.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="976"]A US air force B-52 Stratofortress bomber arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, 9 April 2016 The US uses Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base photo: REUTERS[/caption]
Correspondents say there has been frustration in Washington, which is seeking to resolve the dispute, over the time taken by the Saudis and others to formalise their demands. US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line towards Qatar, accusing it of being a “high level” sponsor of terrorism. However, the Arab states involved in the crisis are all close allies of the US. America’s largest base in the Middle East is in Qatar.]]>