MS Risk Blog

Arab States Issue Ultimatum to Qatar

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On Friday 23 June, four Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – who imposed a boycott on Qatar earlier this month, issued an ultimatum to Doha to close Al Jazeera television, curb ties with Iran, shut a Turkish base and pay reparations.

The 13-point list of demands is apparently aimed at dismantling the small but wealth neighbour’s two-decade-old interventionist foreign policy, which has incensed them. Kuwait is currently helping mediate the dispute. An official from one of the four nations has disclosed that the offer would be “void” unless Qatar complied within ten days. Regional analysts have already warned that the uncompromising demands leave little prospect for a quick end to the diplomatic crisis, which is the biggest to take place for years between Sunni Arab Gulf states.

In response to the list, a Qatari government spokesman has disclosed that Doha is reviewing the list of demands and that a formal response would be made by the foreign ministry and delivered to Kuwait, noting however that the demands were not reasonable or actionable. In a statement, Sheikh Saif al-Thani, director of Qatar’s government communications office, disclosed “the list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning – the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy.” A Qatar semi-government human rights body has stated that the demands were a violation of human rights convention and should not be accepted by Qatar. Last week, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani stated that Qatar would not negotiate with the four states until economic, diplomatic and travel ties, which were cut earlier this month, were restored.

The countries that imposed the sanctions have accused Qatar of funding terrorism, fomenting regional unrest and drawing too close to Iran. Qatar however rejects those accusations, stating that it is being punished for straying from its neighbours’ backing for authoritarian hereditary and military rulers.

Qatar has only 300,000 citizens who enjoy the riches produced by the world’s largest exports of liquefied natural gas. The rest of its 2.7 million people are foreign migrant workers, who are mostly manual labourers employed on vast construction projects that have crowned the small desert peninsula with skyscrapers as well as stadiums for the 2022 soccer world cup. While the sanctions have disrupted its main routes to import goods by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from big container ships docked in the UAE, so far Qatar has avoided economic collapse by quickly finding alternative routes and stating that I has huge financial reserves that will meet any challenges. Qatar has also indicated that the sanctions have brought personal hardship for its citizens who live in neighbouring countries or have relatives there. The countries that imposed the sanctions gave Qataris two weeks to leave, which expired on Monday.

Points Included in the List

The official from one of the sanctioning states has disclosed that the demands tell Qatar to stop interfering in the four nations’ domestic and foreign affairs and refrain from giving Qatari nationality to their citizens. The lists also includes a demand for severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State (IS) group, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, as well as the surrender of all designated terrorists on Qatari territory. Qatar denies that it has relationships with terrorist groups or that is shelters terrorists. The country was also ordered to scale down diplomatic relations with Iran, limit its commercial ties and expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which Qatar has denied that they are there. According to the official, the sanctioning countries further demanded that Qatar pay them reparations for any damage or costs incurred due to Qatari policies. Compliance with the demands would be monitored, with monthly reports in the first year, then every three months the following year, then annually for ten years.