Qatar slams Saudi refusal to negotiate list of demands

Published 28.06.2017 14:08
Updated 28.06.2017 16:59
In this Thursday Jan. 6, 2011 file photo, a traditional dhow floats in the Corniche Bay of Doha, Qatar, with tall buildings of the financial district in the background. (AP Photo)
In this Thursday Jan. 6, 2011 file photo, a traditional dhow floats in the Corniche Bay of Doha, Qatar, with tall buildings of the financial district in the background. (AP Photo)

Qatar condemned Saudi Arabia's refusal to negotiate the kingdom and its allies' demands to end a crippling embargo on the emirate. Speaking from Washington where he held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the Saudi position was unacceptable.

"This is contrary to the principles that govern international relations because you can't just present lists of demands and refuse to negotiate," Thani said in comments published in Doha.

His Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, who is also in Washington, was unbending on Tuesday over the three-week dispute, which has left Qatar, a U.S. ally, isolated under a trade and diplomatic embargo set by its Gulf Arab neighbors.

Gulf Arab states are considering fresh sanctions on Qatar and could ask their trading partners to choose between working with them or Doha, the Emirati ambassador to Russia said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. "There are certain economic sanctions that we can take which are being considered right now," Omar Ghobash told the newspaper in an interview in London. "One possibility would be to impose conditions on our own trading partners and say you want to work with us then you have got to make a commercial choice," he said. He said the expulsion of Qatar from the Gulf Cooperation Council was "not the only sanction available."

With the support of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain, the Saudis announced on June 5 they were suspending all ties with Qatar. They closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate's only land border, a vital route for its food imports. They also ordered all Qataris to leave and their own nationals to return home. Last week, Riyadh laid down a list of 13 demands for Qatar, including the closure of Al-Jazeera television, a downgrade of diplomatic ties with Iran and the shutdown of a Turkish military base in the emirate. The UAE warned that Qatar should take the demands seriously or face a "divorce" from its Gulf neighbors.

Qatar denied the accusations, calling the move "unjustified." The escalation came two weeks after the website of Qatar's official news agency was allegedly hacked by unknown individuals who reportedly published statements attributed to the country's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Turkey has been trying to do its best to mediate since the crisis broke out. Ankara displayed its support to Qatar as Parliament approved two deals to deploy troops to an air base in Qatar. Ankara's move to deploy troops to the small country is meant to increase stability and help Turkish peacemaking efforts function better. The deal to deploy troops to Qatari soil, which is expected to improve the country's army and boost military cooperation, was signed in April 2016 in the Gulf country's capital Doha. The deal was approved by Parliament after a period of one year.

The rift between its allies has been a blow to Washington just as its campaign against the Daesh terror group comes to a climax in Iraq and Syria. Tillerson has held repeated meetings with both sides as well as with mediators Kuwait and the United Nations. While initially stepping back from what it viewed as a regional spat that would sort itself out, Washington has accepted that it will have to take an active role to resolve what has the makings of a foreign policy disaster for the young government of President Donald Trump. Washington has close economic and security ties with both sides of the quarrel. Qatar is home to the largest U.S. base in the region, Al-Udeid. Bahrain is home to the U.S. navy's fifth fleet. And the U.S. and Saudi militaries work closely together as well.

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