Saudi-led Group Gives Qatar 48-Hour Extension to Accept Their Ultimatum

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani prior to a meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 27 June 2017. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Saudi-led bloc has given Qatar an additional 48 hours to accept its 13 demands.
  • Extension had been requested by mediator Kuwait – even though Qatar already rejected the demands in principle.
  • Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed has declared that the demands were drawn up in such a way that they were ‘meant to be rejected’.
  • He has said that Qatar offered instead ‘a proper condition for a dialogue’to resolve the Gulf crisis.
  • He deems that US President Trump has been manipulated into believing that Qatar supports terrorist groups.

The group of four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, which in early June severed relations with Qatar over its foreign policy and alleged support for Islamists, has given Doha 48 more hours to accept their 13 far-reaching demands – even though Qatar has already turned them down in principle.

The 13 demands in question ranged from decreasing contacts with Iran to closing a Turkish military base, shutting down Al Jazeera, and paying an unspecified compensation (full list here).

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt as well as the internationally recognized government of war-torn Yemen broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar in a major international rift on June 5, 2017.

The countries in question claimed that Qatar supports terrorist groups such as ISIS (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”), al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, and that Qatar threatens their national security.

In the past, Qatar has denied similar allegations. It has been part of the US-led international coalition against ISIS as well as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government and fighting the Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

All Arab Persian Gulf countries in question are US allies, and Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East: 11,000 US troops are stationed in the base located 20 miles southwest of the Qatari capital Doha.

The rift among the Gulf Arab states comes amid intensified rivalry with Iran for primacy in the Middle East.

Ultimatum Extension

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt have agreed to a request by Kuwait, which has been acting as a mediator in the diplomatic dispute, to extend by 48 hours the deadline for their ultimatum for Qatar, according to a joint statement on Saudi state news agency SPA, as cited by Al Jazeera.

The deadline for Qatar to accept the 13 conditions set by the Saudi-led group expired on Sunday, July 2.

Kuwait had received a response by Qatar, Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA said on Monday.

Without stating whether Qatar had rejected the ultimatum as was widely expected, KUNA said Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah asked Saudi Arabia and three other countries that have boycotted Qatar to grant it a 48-hour extension.

The restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led bloc have caused turmoil in Qatar. Its allies Iran and Turkey have been increasingly supplying it with food and other goods as a result.

In brief, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt demand that Qatar closes a Turkish military base, scale down relations with Iran, end ties with the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and ISIS, expel citizens from the four countries residing on its territory, hand over people wanted for terrorism, stop funding groups designated as terrorist by the US, provide information on opposition figures it has funded in Saudi Arabia, align itself with the Gulf Cooperation Council, stop funding Al Jazeera and other state-run media, and pay an unspecified sum in compensation.

‘Meant to Be Rejected’

Speaking on Saturday in the Italian capital Rome, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said the list of demands of the Saudi-led bloc “was meant to be rejected”.

As evidence, he pointed to the fact that it arrived with a 10-day expiration date, as cited by Al Jazeera.

Qatar has not unveiled a formal document declaring its rejection of the demands yet.

Its Foreign Minister, however, said Doha offered instead “a proper condition for a dialogue” to resolve the Gulf crisis.

“Everyone is aware that these demands are meant to infringe the sovereignty of the state of Qatar, shut the freedom of speech and impose auditing and probation mechanism for Qatar,” he said during a visit to Italy.

“We believe that the world is not governed by ultimatums, we believe that the world is governed by the international law, it is governed by an order that does not allow large countries to bully small countries,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani argued.

But Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt have insisted that their demands were non-negotiable.

The foreign ministers of the four countries are planned to meet on Wednesday in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, to discuss their next steps, according to a statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

Sheikh Mohammed said on Saturday that “those parties brand any party of state who opposes their designs as terrorists.”

Trump ‘Manipulated’

The UAE ambassador to Russia, Omar Ghobash, has previously said that Qatar could face fresh sanctions if it does not comply with the demands.

A US state department official said on Sunday that Washington encourages “all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive diplomatic discussions. We are not going to get ahead of those discussions. We fully support Kuwaiti mediation”.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Saturday said that US President Donald Trump was manipulated into believing that Qatar was not doing enough to crack down on funding “extremists”.

“The United States administration and institutions firmly believe in the state of Qatar, yet the statement made by President Trump was based on false allegations and the false impression given to him by the heads of states who imposed a blockade on Qatar,” he said.

Trump would be able to find “the true, established facts” from the US institutions, according to Sheikh Mohammed.

“The state of Qatar has been subjected to unlawful measures on the basis of false allegations without the submission of evidence,” he said.

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