Sunday 22 July 2018

Arabs give ultimatum to Qatar: shut Al Jazeera, curb Iran ties

DUBAI, June 24, 2017

Four Arab states - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt - that imposed a boycott on Qatar have handed the country a list of 13 demands, including closure of Al Jazeera television, curbing ties with Iran besides shutting down a Turkish military base and paying reparations, reported CNN, and have given Doha 10 days to comply with the demands. 
The 13-point list of demands is so far reaching it would appear to be hard for Doha to comply, stated the report. 
The uncomprimising demands leave little prospect for a quick end to the biggest diplomatic crisis for years between Sunni Arab Gulf states, reported Reuters, citing regional analysts. 
"The demands are so aggressive that it makes it close to impossible to currently see a resolution of that conflict," Olivier Jakob, a strategist at Switzerland-based oil consultancy Petromatrix, said. 
Ibrahim Fraihat, Conflict Resolution Professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, forecast a prolonged stand-off. 
Qatar would reject the demands as a "non-starter", he said, and its neighbours had already escalated as far as they were likely to go. "Military action remains unlikely at the moment so the outcome after the deadline would be a political stalemate ..." 
Some of the key demands are:
*Shut down the Al Jazeera media network and its affiliates.
*Halt the development of a Turkish military base in the country.
*Reduce diplomatic ties with Iran.
*Cut ties to extremist organizations.
*Stop interfering in the four countries' affairs.
*Stop the practice of giving Qatari nationality to citizens of the four countries.
Qatar confirmed on Friday it had received the list and was studying the demands. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would give its official response to Kuwait, which has been acting as the mediator between Qatar and its neighbours.
The director of Qatar's Government Communication Office, Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, said the demands confirm what Qatar has said from the beginning: "The illegal siege has nothing to do with combating terrorism, (but) it is about limiting Qatar's sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy."
Qatar's National Human Rights Committee said some of the demands violate international human rights conventions, according to a Qatar News Agency story tweeted Friday by the foreign ministry.
After US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he hoped the demands would be "reasonable and actionable," and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the demands should be "measured and realistic," Al-Thani said the list does not satisfy any of those criteria.
Al Jazeera said any call to close down the network is an attempt to silence freedom of expression in the region, said the CNN in its report.
"We assert our right to practice our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority and we demand that governments respect the freedom of media to allow journalists to continue to do their jobs free of intimidation, threats and fear-mongering," it said in a statement.
A senior UAE government official accused Qatar of leaking the list in an attempt to undermine mediation efforts and regional stability.
"The leakage will further exasperate & prolong the Qatar crisis. Undermining serious diplomacy will lead to parting of ways," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.
An official from one of the four nations, who gave details of the demands on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the offer would be "void" unless Qatar complied within 10 days. 
The UAE has said sanctions could last for years. Qatar, the world's richest country per capita, says the sanctions amount to a "blockade", but it has ample reserves to weather the storm. 
The dispute is a big test for the US, which houses the headquarters of its Middle East air power and 11,000 troops at a large base in Qatar, reported Reuters. 
President Donald Trump has backed the sanctions, even as his Defense and State Departments have tried to remain neutral, resulting in in mixed signals. Trump called Qatar a "funder of terrorism at a very high level", only for his Pentagon to approve selling it $12 billion of warplanes five days later. 
The most powerful country in the region to back the Qatari side in the dispute has been Turkey, whose President Tayyip Erdogan has his roots in an Islamist political party similar to movements that Qatar has backed in the region. 
Days after the sanctions were imposed, Turkey rushed through legislation to send more troops to its base in Qatar as a sign of support. 
Since the onset of Qatar's isolation, Turkey has fast-tracked a decision to approve the deployment of troops to Qatar -- part of an existing bilateral agreement but widely interpreted as a show of support for the increasingly isolated country.
Friday, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik tried to allay criticism of the Turkish base in Qatar and warned against intervention.
The Arab nations cut ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. The four countries say the list will become void if Qatar fails to comply within the 10-day period.
They called on Qatar to sever ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Jabhat Fateh al Sham.
Qatar -- which shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia -- has rejected accusations it supports terrorism, calling them "unjustified" and "baseless."
The list of demands was presented to Qatar by Kuwait and was released more than two weeks after Saudi Arabia led a coordinated freeze by nine countries on diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar.
The list also demands that Qatar pay reparations to the four countries for damages or costs incurred because of Qatari policies.
It says the demands will be monitored and involve monthly reports in the first year, then every three months the next year, then annually for 10 years, the report added.

Tags: Qatar | Iran | Al Jazeera | arab | ultimatum |

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