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05 July 2017

Qatar crisis: Saudi Arabia and allies to meet in Cairo

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-ThaniImage copyright
Reuters

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Qatar’s foreign minister said the demands were about “shutting down the freedom of speech”

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are to discuss the Qatar crisis, a month after they severed ties with the Gulf state.

The meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo comes on the day a deadline expires for Qatar to accept a list of demands or face further sanctions.

The demands to Qatar including shutting down Al-Jazeera news and scaling down ties with Iran.

Qatar has called the list of demands “unrealistic and not actionable”.

Qatar is accused of destabilising the region by supporting extremism and terrorism – which it denies.

The tiny gulf emirate has been under unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain.

The imposed restrictions have caused turmoil in the oil- and gas-rich nation, which is dependent on imports to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies gave Qatar an extra two days to accept their ultimatum for restoring relations, after an earlier 10-day deadline expired.

The authorities in Doha have responded to the demands – but no details have been publicly released. Qatar has said the demands break international law.

On Tuesday, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani described the demands as unrealistic.

“It’s not about terrorism, it’s talking about shutting down the freedom of speech,” he said.

The four countries accuse Doha of harbouring Islamist groups that they consider terrorist organisations – including the Muslim Brotherhood – and giving them a platform on the Al Jazeera satellite channel, which is funded by the Qatari state.

Qatar denies the accusations.

As a result of the sanctions, Iran and Turkey have been increasingly supplying Qatar with food and other goods.

On Tuesday, Qatar announced plans for a steep rise in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production capacity over the coming years.

The country is the world’s leading producer of LNG.

What are the other demands?

According to the Associated Press news agency, which obtained a copy of the list, Qatar must also:

  • Refuse to naturalise citizens from Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and expel those currently on its territory, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs
  • Hand over all individuals who are wanted by the four countries for terrorism
  • Stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the US
  • Provide detailed information about opposition figures whom Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations
  • Align itself politically, economically and otherwise with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC)
  • Stop funding other news outlets in addition to Al Jazeera, including Arabi21 and Middle East Eye
  • Pay an unspecified sum in compensation

The demands have not been officially unveiled. Their publication has increased the friction between the two sides.

How did we get here?

  • 5 June: A number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region. Measures include closing airspace to Qatar Airways
  • 8 June: Qatar vows it will “not surrender” the independence of its foreign policy amid US calls for Gulf unity
  • 23 June: Qatar is given 10 days to comply with a 13-point list of demands, including shutting down the Al Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base, cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and curbing diplomatic relations with Iran
  • 1 July: Qatar’s foreign minister says the state has rejected the demands, but is ready to engage in dialogue under the right conditions
  • 3 July: Saudi Arabia and its allies extend by 48 hours the deadline for Qatar to accept their list of demands

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