Allied Arab Countries Reject Qatar’s Response to Their Demands

Published July 6th, 2017 - 05:00 GMT
Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. (AFP)
Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. (AFP)

Allied Arab countries rejected Qatar's response to their demands as "negative" on Wednesday, indicating a further escalation in the ongoing diplomatic row in the region.

Qatar's response showed a "lack of seriousness" in dealing with the crisis, according to a joint statement by foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

The top diplomats met in Cairo, a day after they received Qatar's response to a list of 13 demands that the country must meet or else face continued sanctions by its neighbours.

The four countries "express their sorrow for Qatar's negative response which showed its negligence and lack of seriousness in dealing with the roots of the problem," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said, reading their joint statement.

Qatar's response failed to "lay the foundation for reversing its policies," according to the statement.

The four countries cut diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar early June, accusing the tiny Gulf state of supporting terrorism - a charge that Doha denies.

Later, they issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar including downgrading ties with Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia; stopping support for Islamist groups; and shutting down the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcast network.

They placed 59 individuals and 12 groups with alleged links to Qatar on terrorism lists.

The deadline ran out Tuesday, and the countries said Wednesday that they will respond in a "timely manner."

The foreign ministers said they will meet again in the Bahraini capital Manama, specifying neither a date nor the next steps the four countries are expected to take.

"Qatar must change its policies for our stance to change, and we will take the right steps at the right time," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said.

Shoukri said the ministers discussed Qatar's response and "possible future actions," which will aim at "fighting terrorism."

Qatar, an energy-rich monarchy with a population of around 2.5 million, has described the demands as "unrealistic."

Responding to a question on whether suspending Qatar's membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was discussed, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said it should be first discussed within the six-member political and economic alliance in the Gulf.

The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

In London, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani dismissed the potential move.

"No, they cannot take such a decision because it should be by consensus," he said during a meeting at the Chatham House think tank.

Kuwait and Oman have remained neutral since the crisis began a month ago, and Kuwait has been mediating the dispute.

In a rare comment on the crisis, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit said the 22-member bloc supports Kuwaiti mediation.

US President Donald Trump, while flying from Washington to Europe for meetings in Warsaw and Hamburg, telephoned Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Trump called on all parties "to negotiate constructively to resolve the dispute" and reiterated the need for all countries to follow through on commitments to halt terrorist financing and "discredit extremist ideology," the White House said.

In a previous falling out with Qatar in 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily withdrew their ambassadors, accusing their neighbour of breaching a regional security pact. That dispute was resolved with Kuwaiti mediation.

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