What’s Going on in Qatar?July 7, 2017 in Qatar
The crisis in the Gulf shows little sign of resolution.
What has happened?
Last month, Several Arab countries announced they were breaking diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut off ties with Qatar on 5 June, later the internationally recognised Yemeni government and Libya’s eastern-based government – which has little authority – followed suit. The Maldives then announced it too was cutting ties.
Saudi Arabia said it would close borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula. The Saudis, the UAE and Bahrain have given Qataris two weeks to leave, and only 48 hours for its diplomats to quit.
Saudi Arabia said it took the decision because of Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region”, including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, Islamic State and groups supported by Iran.
What happened next?
23 June, the Arab states issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar to comply with if they wished to end the blockade. These were:
- Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
- Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
- Shut down al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
- Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
- Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
- Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.
- Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
- End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
- Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
- Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
- Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
- Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
- Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.
That deadline was extended by 48 hours on Sunday, when Qatar sent a letter to Kuwaiti mediators effectively refusing to engage with the demands.
The Qatar foreign minister said his country would not accept any plan that breaches international law or interferes with its sovereignty.
Speaking at Chatham House in London, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of “demanding that we must surrender our sovereignty as the price for ending the siege”.
Thani described the Saudi demands as “not reasonable or actionable”, adding “the blockade was extraordinary, unprovoked and hostile”.
The demand, he said, would mean “Qatar was asked to curtail free expression, hand individual people over to torture, reduce its defence capabilities, go against international law, outsource its foreign policy to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, literally sign an open cheque to the blockading countries to pay an unlimited amount of money described as compensation.”
The Blockade’s Response
The four Arab states leading the boycott said late on 6 July that Doha’s refusal of their demands was proof of its links to terrorist groups and that they would enact new measures against it.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain released a joint statement carried by their state media saying their initial list of 13 demands was now void and pledging new political, economic and legal steps against Qatar.
Qatar’s stance “reflects its intention to continue its policy, aimed at destabilising security in the region”, their statement said. “All political, economic and legal measures will be taken in the manner and at the time deemed appropriate to preserve the four countries’ rights, security and stability.”