Qatar Crisis: Arab nations no longer insist it comply with 13 Point demands

The four Arab nations leading a boycott of Qatar are no longer insisting it comply with a list of 13 specific demands they tabled last month.

Diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt told reporters at the UN that they now wanted it to accept six broad principles.

These include commitments to combat terrorism and extremism and to end acts of provocation and incitement. There is no immediate comment from Qatar, which denies aiding terrorists.

It has refused to agree to any measures that threaten its sovereignty or violate international law, and denounced the siege imposed by its neighbours.

The air, sea and land restrictions put in place six weeks ago have caused turmoil in the emirate, which is dependent on imports to meet its population’s basic needs.

At a briefing for a group of UN correspondents in New York yesterday, diplomats from the four countries said they wanted to resolve the crisis amicably.

Saudi permanent representative Abdullah al-Mouallimi said their foreign ministers had agreed the six principles at a meeting in Cairo on the 5th of this month and that they should be easy for the Qataris to accept.

About Qatar diplomatic crisis

The 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis began when several countries abruptly cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017. These countries included Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. The severing of relations included withdrawing ambassadors, and imposing trade and travel bans.

The Saudi-led coalition cited Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism as the main reason for their actions, insisting Qatar has violated a 2014 agreement with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia and other countries have criticized Al Jazeera and Qatar’s relations with Iran. Qatar claims that it has assisted the United States in the War on Terror and the ongoing military intervention against ISIL.

Saudi Arabia’s move was welcomed by United States president Donald Trump despite a large U.S. presence at the Al Udeid Air Base, the primary base of U.S. air operations against the Islamic State. However, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis are working on de-escalating the situation. Tillerson, as the CEO of ExxonMobil, had acquaintances with the current and previous emirs of Qatar. A number of countries in the region, including Turkey, Russia and Iran, called for the crisis to be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

Issues of Contention

• Qatar maintains relatively good relations with Iran. In 2006, Qatar was the only UN Security Council member to vote against United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696, which was calling on Iran to halt its nuclear enrichment program (which for Saudi Arabia is a very serious issue of national security).

• Qatar and Iran share ownership of the South Pars/North Dome Gas-Condensate field, by far the world’s largest natural gas field, with significant geostrategic influence. In April 2017, after a 12-year freeze, Qatar lifted a self-imposed ban on developing the gas field with Iran, which would require cooperation between the two countries.

• The crisis has turned into a proxy battle between partners and adversaries of Iran and UAE politicians claim that “Qatar invests billions of dollars in the U.S. and Europe and then recycles the profits to support Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and groups linked to al Qaeda.

• Qatar hosts the American military base from which the U.S. directs its regional war against extremism, yet it also owns media networks responsible for inciting many of the same extremists”.

• Qatar also used its contacts to help negotiate peaceful exchanges of hostages for the safe evacuation of civilians from areas affected by the Syrian Civil War. However, Qatar also sent its forces to fight against alleged Iranian-backed militias in the current Yemeni Civil War and has supported rebels fighting the Iranian-allied government of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War.

• Qatar has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in the past. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies see the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat, as it ideologically opposes hereditary rule.

• The government of Egypt has long viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as “enemy number one”. In 2011, during the Arab Spring, Qatar supported the Egyptian protesters agitating for change, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. By contrast, Saudi Arabia supported Hosni Mubarak and currently supports Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

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