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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Qatar crisis: Germany backs bid to end support for terrorism

Doha delivers its response to 13 demands as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt plan meeting to discuss next steps

Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah, centre right, looks at a letter from Qatar’s ruler given to him by the Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, centre left, on Monday, July 3, 2017. (KUNA via AP
Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah, centre right, looks at a letter from Qatar’s ruler given to him by the Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, centre left, on Monday, July 3, 2017. (KUNA via AP

Saudi Arabia says it and Germany have agreed on the need for Qatar to stop its support for terrorism, which is part of the 13 demands set by Arab states who accuse it of funding extremism.

The Qatari response to the demands from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt was delivered to Kuwait on Monday and will be discussed at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday, said Adel Al Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister.

Qatar had earlier been granted a 48-hour extension of the deadline to respond to the demands. It could face further sanctions if it does not meet them.

“We hope for a positive response to be able to resolve the crisis,” Mr Al Jubeir said.

He on Monday met German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is on a tour of Arab states and said his country did not perceive the 13 demands as infringing on Qatar’s sovereignty.

“An agreement on ending any kind of support for terrorist or extremist organisations” would be the best solution to the crisis, said Mr Gabriel, who will be in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Qatar’s response to the demands was handed by the foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah, as international pressure continued for the crisis to be resolved.

The feud erupted on June 5 when the four Arab countries severed diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being an ally of regional foe Iran.

Shortly after the deadline extension was announced, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said he hoped the extension would give Qatar a chance to revise its stance.

“Wisdom is needed and the alternative is difficult for us all,” Dr Gargash said on his Twitter account.

UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson welcomed Qatar's response and that the four Arab countries had agreed to Kuwait’s request for more time.

“This is an important step in building confidence between the parties,” Mr Johnson said. “We strongly support Kuwait’s mediation efforts. I hope that progress can continue to be made to restore GCC, which is a key element of stability in the Gulf region.”

He has said that London supports the call for Qatar to do more to clamp down on fundraising for terrorists, while also urging the four countries to ease the measures they have taken to isolate Doha.

Mr Al Jubeir has said the 13 demands are non-negotiable, while Sheikh Mohammed said on Saturday that the demands were designed to be rejected and that Doha would not agree to any measure that infringed on its sovereignty.

On Sunday US president Donald Trump spoke to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar to discuss his “concerns about the ongoing dispute”.

Mr Trump spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as well as Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim.

“He reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology,” the White House said.

“The president also underscored that unity in the region is critical to accomplishing the Riyadh Summit’s goals of defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability.

“President Trump, nevertheless, believes that the overriding objective of his initiative is the cessation of funding for terrorism.”

The comments may indicate that Mr Trump and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has been leading US mediation, have narrowed their public differences over the dispute.

A source said Mr Tillerson was on at least one of the calls with Gulf leaders.

Mr Trump has previously backed the Saudi and UAE position, while Mr Tillerson and the US defence secretary have called for de-escalation and talks.

It is unclear what Kuwait hopes to achieve by extending the deadline.

UAE officials yesterday said that when the deadline expired, economic and political sanctions would become permanent. The four countries’ foreign ministers will meet in Cairo for talks tomorrow.

The UAE Ambassador to Russia, Omar Saif Ghobash, has said that Qatar could face fresh sanctions if it does not comply with the demands. The rift opened days after Mr Trump met Arab leaders in Riyadh and called for unity against regional threats, such as Iran, and hardline Islamist militant groups.

The demands include closing down a Turkish military base in Qatar and shutting Al Jazeera news network.

The list includes scaling down Qatar’s relationship with Iran and ending the funding of terrorist organisations.

* Additional reporting by Reuters

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