Arab states’ demands are ‘impossible to meet’, says Qatar as new deadline looms
In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of sponsoring terrorism. They later presented Doha with a list of 13 demands, including shutting down its news channel Al Jazeera, ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood, downgrading ties with Iran and closing a military base housing Turkish troops on its territory.
The deadline to comply with the demands ended on Sunday, but the Gulf States and Egypt granted Qatar another 48 hours before the group would consider imposing further sanctions.
Speaking at a news conference in Doha Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Saudi Arabia and its allies were asking too much.
"What Qatar has given in goodwill and good initiative for a constructive solution, based on dialogue, we believe should be sufficient [to show] we have carried out our duties from our side," said Al-Thani, adding, that some of the demands by the other Gulf states and Egypt are “unrealistic and is not actionable".
"The state of Qatar has adopted a very constructive attitude since the beginning of the crisis. We are trying to act mature and discuss the matter."
Qatar, which unlike the other Arab states following Riyadh’s lead enjoys a more independent foreign policy, denies any links to terrorism and says it will not back down to pressure. It’s also unlikely to shut down Al Jazeera, its flagship international broadcaster.
"It's not about terrorism, it's talking about shutting down the freedom of speech," said Al-Thani.
Through Kuwait, which has been acting as intermediary, Qatar officially responded to the new deadline Monday, but what precisely was communicated has not yet been revealed.
Qatar’s vast gas reserves make it one of the world’s richest countries, but the ongoing crisis ferments further instability in the Middle East.
"We wish well for the people of Qatar and we hope that the rulers of Qatar return to their senses," said Saudi diplomat Ali Hassan Jaafar at a news conference as quoted by Reuters. "We want stability in the Gulf region and in the Arab region. If these demands are not fulfilled we will defend our security and stability and there will be other measures,” Jaafar warned.
Al Jazeera is a major reason behind Qatar’s recent woes, according to former Saudi Navy commodore Abdulateef al-Mulhim. “The Al Jazeera establishment in Qatar, which is in reality is a state-run TV station, from day one it was inciting violence and hatred among the Gulf State,” al-Mulhim told RT.
“Things reached their peak in 2014, when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States pulled out their ambassadors in protest, and we only sent back the ambassadors after Qatar gave way and decided they will not instigate violence.”
“During the Arab Spring, Qatar was actually hand-in-hand with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Jazeera was the public relations voice for the people who wanted to actually make havoc and chaos in the Gulf States, especially Bahrain and Kuwait.”
But Malik Dahlan, an international mediator with the Quraysh think tank, argued that it’s important to look at the bigger picture.
“We should look at this situation as beyond Al Jazeera, or Qatar for that matter,” Dahlan explained. “I think the fight against radicalism doesn’t stop at financing. I think we’ve reached a stage where we need to accept that Wahhabism specifically is the problem in both countries [Qatar and Saudi Arabia], and that it has failed as an ideology for both countries.”
Delegates from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE are due to meet in Egypt Wednesday to discuss the ongoing diplomatic crisis which started about a month ago.
Qatar is supported by Turkey and Iran while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow would do "everything possible" to help resolve the crisis.