A top United Arab Emirates official said Saturday the Arab countries isolating Qatar do not seek to force out the country’s leadership but are willing to cut ties if it does not agree to their demands. Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters in Dubai that his country and its allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, do not want ”regime change” in Qatar, but a ”behavioral change.” The four countries presented a 13-point list of demands to Qatar through mediator Kuwait on Thursday and gave it 10 days to comply. Qatar says it is reviewing the ultimatum, which includes demands to shut Al-Jazeera, cut ties with Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, and curb relations with Iran.
Qatar’s neighbors insisted the list of demands was their bottom line, not a starting point for negotiations. The Arab countries signaled that if Qatar refuses to comply by the deadline, they will continue to restrict its access to land, sea and air routes indefinitely amid mounting economic pressure on the Persian Gulf nation.
The demands from Qatar’s neighbors 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. The four Arab states cut ties with Qatar over allegations that it funds terrorism – an accusation Doha rejects but that President Donald Trump has echoed. The move has left Qatar under a de facto blockade by its neighbors.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has tried to mediate and earlier this week called on the Arab nations to limit themselves to ”reasonable and actionable” demands on Qatar. That call appeared to have been roundly ignored, and it was the Kuwaitis, who also offered to mediate, who delivered the list to Qatar on Thursday.