Qatar’s deadline to meet neighbours’ demands extended
The two-day extension comes at the request of mediator Kuwait, and Doha was prepared simply to let it pass
Doha — A Saudi-led coalition that has cut air, sea and land links with Qatar over accusations that the country is supporting terrorism, agreed to a two-day extension of its deadline for Qatar to meet its demands, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.
The decision was made at the request of the emir of Kuwait, which has been acting as a mediator, Kuwait News Agency reported.
Qatar would still submit its official response to the demands to Kuwait on Monday, it said.
The Saudi-led bloc will deliver a full response after a complete reading of the Qatari government’s answer, the Saudi Press Agency reported later.
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said on Saturday that his country would not concede any demands that threatened its sovereignty or violated international law, and was prepared to let pass Monday’s deadline for complying with the bloc’s 13 demands.
Those include shutting the Al Jazeera television network and cutting back ties with Iran.
"There is no fear from our direction. We are ready to face the consequences," Thani said on Saturday in Rome, where he met with his Italian counterpart.
"There is an international law that should be respected and not violated," he said.
Foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are expected to meet on Wednesday in Cairo to discuss the latest developments on relations with Qatar, the Egyptian foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
Qatari stocks declined on Sunday as the rift showed no sign of easing. The QE index, which resumed trading after a one-week public holiday, declined as much as 4% but pared its loss to 2.3% at the close.
Thani repeated on Saturday that Qatar was willing to sit down and negotiate under the right circumstances.
The ultimatum issued 10 days ago was made to be rejected, he said.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed commercial links with Qatar almost a month ago, saying they were isolating the sheikhdom over what they see as its tolerant attitude toward Iran and support for terrorist groups. Here are their key demands:
The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel has long been a source of conflict between Doha and its neighbours, who accuse it of bias and fomenting unrest.
One of the world’s largest news organisations, it has been repeatedly banned.
Egypt accuses it of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which it blames for violence after the military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
The United Nations said the demand to shut Al-Jazeera and "other affiliated media outlets" was "an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion".
The Arab countries also demand that Doha cut ties with groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and its allies blacklist as a "terrorist" organisation.
They also called on Qatar to hand over opposition figures based in Doha.
The emirate has long hosted exiled Brotherhood figures including the movement’s spiritual leader, Egyptian preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and Khaled Meshaal, former head of the Brotherhood-linked Palestinian movement Hamas.
Western governments have concerns about the Brotherhood but have not listed it as a foreign terrorist organisation — nor has the United Nations.
Another key demand is the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar set to give Turkey a new foothold in the Gulf. Turkey sees Qatar as its top Gulf ally but is also keen to improve relations with regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia.
However, Turkey’s parliament approved a troop deployment to the Qatar base just two days after the crisis broke out.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the demands are "against international law".
Riyadh and its allies want Doha to downgrade its warm diplomatic ties with Tehran, Saudi Arabia’s key regional rival.
They accuse Qatar of supporting Iranian-backed groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement — a charge Doha denies.
Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran sit on opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, where Qatar was part of an alliance fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels until the crisis broke out.
Riyadh regularly accuses Tehran of interfering across the Middle East, linking it to instability in the kingdom’s east, where minority Shiites live.
But not all Riyadh’s Gulf neighbours share its hostility towards Iran. Oman and Kuwait retain warm diplomatic ties with Tehran, while the UAE hosts a large Iranian expat population and has strong commercial ties with the Islamic Republic.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said his country wants to bolster relations with Doha. When Saudi Arabia closed the emirate’s only land border — vital for its food imports — Iran shipped in tonnes of fruits and vegetables.
Bloomberg and AFP