Qatar on Saturday denounced a sweeping list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies in an escalating Gulf diplomatic crisis as unreasonable and an impingement on the emirate’s sovereignty.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want Qatar to meet the 13-point ultimatum in return for an end to a nearly three-week-old diplomatic and trade ‘blockade’ of the emirate.
Qatar has been given 10 days to meet the demands, which apparently include a call to close down broadcaster Al-Jazeera, but Doha said the requests were unrealistic.
‘This 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,’ said Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, head of Qatar’s government communications office, in a statement.
‘The US secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was ‘reasonable and actionable’.
‘The British foreign secretary asked that the demands be ‘measured and realistic’. This list does not satisfy that criteria.’
The four Arab governments delivered the demands to Qatar through mediator Kuwait on Thursday, more than two weeks after severing all ties with the emirate and imposing an embargo.
The document has not been published but has been widely leaked and the demands are sweeping in their scope.
They include the closure of Al-Jazeera television, a long-standing source of conflict between Doha and neighbouring countries which accuse it of fomenting regional strife.
The ultimatum also include calls for Doha to cut ties to groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State organisation, al-Qaeda and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.
Qatar has also been asked to hand over opposition figures wanted by its three neighbours and Egypt and to downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran.
Notably, it has also been told to shut a Turkish military base in the emirate.
Qatar’s foreign affair ministry said it was ‘studying’ the list, ‘in order to prepare an appropriate response’.
Meshal Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, tweeted that the list was meant to ‘punish Qatar for its independence’.
Qatar was warned by one of its most hawkish critics in the region that unless it meets the list of demands, Doha faces ‘divorce’ from its Gulf neighbours.
Al-Jazeera, one of the largest news organisations in the world, responded to the demands by saying it ‘deplores’ calls for it to be taken off air.