Qatar on Saturday reportedly said the 13-point list of demands presented by Saudi-led allies was not reasonable or actionable, in a major escalation of the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.
The list — which includes a call for Qatar to close down broadcaster al-Jazeera and cut ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — are the demands that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want met to end a diplomatic and trade “blockade” of Qatar, lasting almost three weeks.
“We are reviewing these demands out of respect for … regional security and there will be an official response from our ministry of foreign affairs,” Sheikh Saif al-Thani, the director of Qatar’s government communications office told Reuters in a statement.
It said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently called on Saudi Arabia and its allies to present a list of demands that was “reasonable and actionable.”
“This list does not satisfy that criteria,” al-Thani said.
On Friday, Qatar insisted it could indefinitely survive the economic and diplomatic steps its neighbors have taken to try to pressure it into compliance, even as a top Emirati official warned the tiny country to brace for a long-term economic squeeze.
“I can assure you that our situation today is very comfortable,” Qatari Ambassador to the US Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani told The Associated Press. “Qatar could continue forever like that with no problems.”
Asked whether Qatar felt pressure to resolve the crisis quickly, he said: “Not at all.”
As the United States stepped back from any central mediating role, all sides seemed to be settling in for a potentially protracted crisis. Qatar’s neighbors insisted their 13-point list of demands was their bottom line, not a starting point for negotiations.
If Qatar refuses to comply by the deadline, the Arab countries signaled, they’ll continue to restrict its access to land, sea and air routes indefinitely, as economic pressure mounts on Qatar.
“The measures that have been taken are there to stay until there is a long-term solution to the issue,” Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba said in an interview. Suggesting the penalties would only be economic and diplomatic, he said “there is no military element to this whatsoever.”
Having urged Qatar’s neighbors to come up with “reasonable and actionable” demands, the US sought to distance itself from the crisis the day after the Arab countries issued a list that included several provisions Qatar had already declared it could not or would not accept. But the ultimatum was quickly rejected by Qatar’s ally, Turkey, and blasted as an assault on free speech by Al-Jazeera, the Qatari broadcaster that the gas-rich country’s neighbors are demanding be shut down.
The demands from the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Egyptians and the Bahrainis amount to a call for a sweeping overhaul of Qatar’s foreign policy and natural gas-funded influence peddling in the region. Complying would force Qatar to bring its policies in line with the regional vision of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest economy and gatekeeper of Qatar’s only land border.
“This reflects basically an attempt from these countries to suppress free media and also undermine our sovereignty,” said Al Thani, the Qatari envoy. “They are trying to impose their views on how the issues need to be dealt with in the Middle East.”
“They are bullies,” he added.
The demands include shutting news outlets, including al-Jazeera and its affiliates, curbing diplomatic relations with Iran and severing all ties with Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The United Arab Emirates said the list was intended to be confidential. The AP obtained a copy from one of the countries involved in the dispute.
The four countries cut ties with Qatar earlier this month over allegations that it funds terrorism — an accusation President Donald Trump has echoed. Qatar vehemently denies funding or supporting extremism but acknowledges that it allows members of some extremist groups such as Hamas to live in Qatar, arguing that fostering dialogue is key to resolving global conflicts.
The move by Qatar’s neighbors has left it under a de facto blockade. Although residents made a run on the supermarket in the days after the crisis erupted, the situation has since calmed as Qatar secured alternative sources of imported food from Turkey and elsewhere.
Qatar’s neighbors are demanding that it:
— Curb diplomatic ties with Iran, and limit trade and commerce.
— Stop funding other news outlets, including Arabi21, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
— Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from the four countries.
— Stop all means of funding for groups or people designated by foreign countries as terrorists.
— Pay an unspecified sum in reparations.
— Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.