Shut Al-Jazeera, block Iran, or it’s a divorce, Doha

REUTERS
Published Jun 24, 2017, 1:03 am IST
Updated Jun 24, 2017, 1:03 am IST
UAE friday advised Qatar to take a list of stern demands drawn up by its neighbours seriously.
File photo of Al-Jazeera news studio in Doha, Qatar (Photo: AP)
 File photo of Al-Jazeera news studio in Doha, Qatar (Photo: AP)

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 their regional adversary 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. 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 neighbors who see political Islamism as a threat to their dynastic rule.

 

The list, compiled by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, which cut economic, diplomatic and travel ties to Doha, also demands the closing of a Turkish military base in Qatar, the official said.

Turkey's Defense Minister Fikri Isik rejected the demand, saying any call for the base to be shut would represent interference in Ankara's relations with Doha. He suggested instead that Turkey might bolster its presence.

"Strengthening the Turkish base would be a positive step in terms of the Gulf's security," he said. "Re-evaluating the base agreement with Qatar is not on our agenda." Qatar must also announce it is severing ties with terrorist, ideological and sectarian organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly al Qaeda's branch in Syria, the Arab official said, and surrender all designated terrorists on its territory.

The four Arab countries accuse Qatar of funding terrorism, fomenting regional instability and cozying up to revolutionary theocracy Iran. Qatar has denied the accusations.

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

The countries give Doha 10 days to comply, failing which the list becomes "void", the official said without elaborating, suggesting the offer to end the dispute in return for the 13 steps would no longer be on the table."The demands are so aggressive that it makes it close to impossible to currently see a resolution of that conflict," said Olivier Jakob, a strategist at Switzerland-based oil consultancy Petromatrix.    

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