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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Qatar says it will reject 13 demands from Arab states

Foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani claimed the grievances were aimed at undermining his country's sovereignty and not combating terrorism. 

Officials in Qatar have indicated they will reject the 13 demands of other Arab states
Officials in Qatar have indicated they will reject the 13 demands of other Arab states

Abu Dhabi // Qatar said it would reject the 13 demands made by Arab states to end its isolation aimed at halting Doha's support of extremist groups.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions against Qatar last month followed by a list of requests to resolve the crisis.

But foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani claimed the grievances were aimed at undermining his country's sovereignty and not combating terrorism.

"This list of demands is to be rejected, not to be accepted. We are willing to engage in dialogue but under proper conditions," he said in Rome on Saturday.

The minister's comments came after intensive efforts from Kuwait to mediate in the dispute and ahead of a deadline on Monday for Qatar to respond to the demands, which were presented to Doha last week.

Sheikh Mohammed also gave mixed signals. Qatar was willing to sit down and discuss the grievances, he said, but continued to reject the requests, which include closing down a Turkish military base in his country and shutting Al Jazeera news network.

The list also includes scaling down Qatar's relationship with Iran, agreeing to monthly audits on government finances and ending its alleged funding of terrorist organisations around the Middle East.

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The Arab states cut diplomatic, trade and travel links with Doha on June 5 and banned most Qataris from their countries. Since the demands were issued, Qatar has increased its efforts to drum up international support.

Vladimir Putin discussed the Qatar crisis on Saturday in a telephone call with Bahrain’s King Hamad before calling Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim. The Russian president stressed the need for talks between the governments involved in the dispute, the Kremlin said.

Over the weekend, Qatar lobbied members of the United Nations Security Council to call for an end to the regional boycott. The foreign minister said he held meetings with all the countries holding a seat on the council, except for Egypt, a non-permanent member of the council.

Mishaal Al Gergawi, managing director of the Delma Institute think tank in Abu Dhabi, said Qatar's rejection of the demands is likely to cause a diplomatic escalation but not complete severance from the GCC.

“We’ve seen lots of sources hint at increasing economic sanctions, reaching a point where countries, organisations, institutions will have to choose between working with those countries or working with Qatar,” he said. “Entities that have a lot of activity in Qatar they might not be likely to be favoured here.”

He said another concern for both the UAE and Qatar is how to address a gas pipeline shared by the two countries. He said that Qatar will place itself in a mutually disadvantageous position if they decide to cut the pipeline that provides Dubai with 40 per cent of its gas.

The UAE energy minister said on Thursday his country has sufficient resources to ward off any energy shortfall stemming from Gulf countries’ standoff with Qatar.

The Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said on Wednesday that "the ball is in Qatar's court" in choosing between regional security or emboldening foreign powers in the Arab world.

Nervana Mahmoud, a commentator on Middle East issues, said Qatar was “trying to portray itself as a dignified underdog in front of the international community and the UN, hoping this will earn some sympathy and support”.

Doha hoped at least to “create enough noise to distract from the core problem, which is its support of radical Islamic groups in the region”, she said.

Qatar feels cornered, Mr Al Gergawi said. "They feel that the Kuwaiti mediation might not be enough so perhaps some pressure from Europe and America would be helpful."

On Saturday, the Qatari defence minister Khalid Al Attiyah held talks with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, a day after meeting Turkey’s defence minister.

Turkey has said it wants to mediate a resolution to the dispute but has ruled out closing its base in Qatar and has fast tracked a deployment of troops there.

Mr Al Gergawi said Turkey was reliant on Qatar to boost its economy, while Doha's ties with Iran, which other GCC states accuse of trying to expand its influence in the region, were long-standing.

"Erdogan has a hard time attracting foreign investment there and he’s very dependent on Qatari money,” he said.

Qatar Crisis

Editorial: Qatar’s wrong-headed behaviour is depressingly predictable

Boycott: Arab rights group says Qatar isolation cannot be considered 'blockade'

Sport: Middle East rugby chiefs in limbo as Qatar deadline looms

Sport: UAE bans Qatari American football team citing 'security concerns'

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