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24 Jun, 2017 03:38

‘Attack on sovereignty & independent foreign policy’: Qatar slams Gulf ultimatum as ‘unrealistic’

Qatar says the list of 13 demands put forward by the Gulf nations and Egypt as a precondition for the resumption of diplomatic ties and much needed economic relief is neither “reasonable” nor “realistic”, and infringes on the country’s sovereignty and foreign policy.

“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning – the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy,” Sheikh Saif Al Thani, director of Qatar’s government communications office, said in an email statement to Bloomberg.

The Sheikh stressed that the list is currently under review, but only “out of respect for our brothers in Kuwait,” whose emissary delivered the Saudi-led demands Friday. Al Thani noted that the demands do not meet the US and UK criteria for “reasonable and realistic measures.”

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry says it will soon issue an official response.

“The State of Qatar is currently studying this paper, the demands contained therein and the foundations on which they were based, in order to prepare an appropriate response,” the ministry said, according to Channel News Asia. 

On Friday Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – which accuse Qatar of sponsoring terrorism – issued a list of 13 stringent demands, which among other things, require Doha to cut ties with Iran, shut down its Al Jazeera news outlet and close the military base which houses Turkish troops in the country.

“We in the network believe that any call for closing down Al Jazeera is nothing but an attempt to silence the freedom of expression in the region and to suppress people's right to information,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.

“By accepting those demands and conditions Qatar will be subject to international accountability and violating its commitments regarding human rights conventions,” Qatar's National Human Rights Committee said in a statement cited by Reuters.

READ MORE: Turkey has no intention of closing Qatar base despite Saudi ultimatum

Doha has been given ten days to comply with the ultimatum, otherwise, the Saudi-led nations will continue their diplomatic isolation and economic blockade of the country which began on June 5.

UAE’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs urged Qatar to meet the demands. “It would be wiser that [Qatar] deal seriously with the demands and concerns of the neighbors or a divorce will take place,” Anwar Gargash said on Twitter in Arabic, adding, that “the crisis is profound.”

Meanwhile, Washington which previously questioned the motives of the diplomatic fall out said it is up to the parties involved to solve the stalemate.

“We believe it is a family issue” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday. “This is something they want to, and should, work out for themselves.”

Amid the flurry of diplomatic activity, the United Nations has offered its assistance in mediating the conflict.

“We hope that the countries involved resolve the situation through dialogue,”said UN spokeswoman Eri Kaneko, as quoted by the Inquirer. “We are ready to assist if requested by the parties.”

As the crisis continues to unfold, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to discuss the matter. 

The crisis was triggered in early June following a report on the state run Qatar News Agency (QNA) website and social media accounts, in which the country’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, criticizes Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iranian rhetoric among other controversial statements. QNA immediately retracted what it termed “fake news,” and following an investigation, said the channel had been hacked by “neighboring” states which then used the QNA report as a pretext to impose the economic blockade.