Saudi Arabia and its allies presented Qatar with a list of steep demands to end the crisis that has roiled the Gulf for almost three weeks, as diplomats predicted the tiny Gulf state would likely refuse to comply. The 13 requirements include shutting the Al-Jazeera TV network, cutting back diplomatic ties with Iran, severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and ending Turkey’s military presence in Qatar, according to two western diplomats in the region familiar with the document, who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak publicly. Kuwait, which is mediating the dispute, handed the list to the Qatari government, they said.
Pressure had been mounting on the Saudi-led bloc, which includes Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to finalize what it wants from Qatar to end the crisis, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on June 21 he hoped the demands “will be reasonable and actionable.” One of the diplomats said the list clearly falls short of that, while the other said it was meant to be the basis of secret negotiations rather than being published.
“The demands are severe and and show resolve and determination when it comes to what’s at stake,” said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. “This is a bargaining position to start talks. That is why they upped the stakes.”
The list of demands was first reported by the Associated Press.
The Saudi alliance severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar on June 5, accusing their fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member of supporting terrorism. The move split families apart, disrupted trade, and threatens to alter long-standing geopolitical alliances. Qatar, which views the action as an illegal siege, has denied the charges.
Qatar’s foreign minister on June 19 said his country wouldn’t bargain away what it sees as its sovereign rights and called on the Saudi alliance to conduct negotiations in a “civilized way,” after first lifting the blockade. He said Qataris were united behind their emir, and called Al-Jazeera and foreign policy as internal affairs not open to negotiation.
The boycotting nations demanded that Qatar stop all funding for individuals, groups or organizations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt, Bahrain, the U.S. and other countries, and hand over any individuals wanted in these countries.
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Qatar gas wealth enabled it to develop foreign policies that came to irritate its neighbors. It backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and armed factions opposed by the U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia in Libya and Syria. Gas also paid for Al-Jazeera, which at various times has embarrassed or angered most Middle Eastern governments.
The channel has supported dissidents against Arab dictators. Over the years, it enraged Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian leaders who have often stopped its transmissions and kicked out its staff.
“Qatar may not fully comply with the list, but it has to take these demands into consideration and finally make a move toward reviewing its foreign policy and the editorial line of the main media outlet, Al-Jazeera,” Nader said.
The details of the demands emerged just over a day after Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has led the effort to isolate Qatar, was named as heir to throne, adding to his already sweeping powers. The move suggests a harder foreign policy line for the key US ally in a region fraught with instability.