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Qatar responds to Gulf neighbours’ demands

unnamed (5)Qatar has responded to a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies after they agreed to give it another 48 hours to address their grievances.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut off ties with Qatar on 5 June, accusing it of supporting terrorism. On 22 June they issued a 13-point list of demands to end the standoff and gave Qatar 10 days to comply.

Details of the response were not immediately available, but a Gulf official told the news agency AFP that the Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, had delivered it during a short visit to Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator in the crisis.

Qatar has previously said the stiff demands – including closing the broadcast channel al-Jazeera and ejecting Turkish troops based in Qatar – are so draconian that they appeared designed to be rejected.

According to a joint statement on the Saudi state news agency SPA, the four countries agreed to a request by Kuwait to extend by 48 hours Sunday’s deadline for compliance. Foreign ministers from the four countries would meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss Qatar, Egypt said.

The western-backed, six-member GCC was formed in 1981 – in the wake of Iran’s Islamic revolution and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war – by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

With Donald Trump speaking to both sides on Sunday and claiming there were interesting developments, the expectation has shifted to some form of concessions by Qatar, especially over the control of its overseas funding, but that in turn will require compromises by the Saudi-led coalition.

On Monday the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, welcomed the first signs of flexibility in the Gulf crisis, and said unity across the Gulf was vital.

Since the crisis began last month Turkey has increased its military presence in Qatar in support of the emirate, and both it and Iran have delivered food supplies.

In a sign that an extended blockade may have a significant impact on the country, some UK banks have ceased trading in the Qatari riyal for retail customers. Energy exports from Qatar, which is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, have not yet been hit.

The US, which has 10,000 troops in Qatar in its main Middle East base, has been split in its response between the White House and Department of State. Donald Trump has moved to rebuild Saudi ties, but the state department has tried to take a more nuanced role as mediator, working alongside Kuwait.

 

Qatar said on Sunday that it would give its formal response to the demands on Monday in a letter to Kuwait. Qatari officials have repeatedly said the demands are so strict that they suspect the four countries never seriously intended to negotiate them, and were instead seeing to hobble Doha’s sovereignty.

Qatar’s Gulf critics accuse al-Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected the accusations and said it will maintain its editorial independence.

 

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