Qatar's neighbours demand changes, small country given 10 days to comply
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recently cut ties with Qatar
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbour shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and close down a Turkish military base in Qatar.
In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand that Qatar sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other groups including Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties to Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism — an accusation that U.S. President Donald Trump has echoed. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.
According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.
They are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four countries for terrorism; stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S.; and provide detailed information about opposition figures that Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations.
Qatar's government did not have any immediate reaction to the list. Nor did the United States. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had insisted that Qatar's neighbours provide a list of demands that was "reasonable and actionable."
Though Qatar's neighbours have focused their grievances on alleged Qatari support for extremism, they have also voiced loud concerns about Qatar's relationship with Iran, the Shia-led country that is a regional foe for Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led nations.
The Iran provisions in the document say Qatar must shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, kick out from Qatar any members of the Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, and only conduct trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. sanctions. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were eased but other sanctions remain in place.
The demands regarding Al-Jazeera, the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, state that Qatar must also shut down all affiliates. That presumably would mean Qatar would have to close down Al-Jazeera's English-language affiliate. Qatar's neighbours accuse Al-Jazeera of fomenting unrest in the region and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
Turkey rejects idea of base closure
A senior United Arab Emirates official accused Qatar of sharing the demands with the media.
Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash made the accusation on Twitter on Friday. He says sharing the document is either an "attempt to undermine serious mediation or yet another sign of callous policy."
Turkey on Friday rejected a key demand by the Arab states to shut down its military base in Qatar.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday that the Turkish base aims to train Qatari soldiers and increase the Persian Gulf nation's security. According to the Milliyet newspaper's online edition, he also said that "no one should be disturbed by" the Turkish presence in Qatar.
Turkey has sided with Qatar in the dispute and its parliament has ratified legislation allowing the deployment of Turkish troops to the base. The military said a contingent of 23 soldiers reached Doha on Thursday.
Underscoring the growing seriousness of the crisis, state-run Qatar Petroleum acknowledged early Friday that some critically important employees "may have been asked to postpone" trips abroad "for operational reasons" as a result of the embargo.
It described the move as "a very limited measure that could take place in any oil and gas operating company" to ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to customers.
Under Qatari law, foreigners working in the country must secure their employer's consent to receive an exit permit allowing them to leave. The practice, which has been in place for years, has been assailed by rights groups who say it limits workers' freedom of movement and leaves them open to abuse.
Beirut-based political analyst George Alam said Qatar is unlikely to agree to the demands.
"They are impossible to be met because they interfere in Qatar's foreign policy and Qatar considers its foreign policy a sovereign matter that is nonnegotiable, he said.