Qatar has been told it needs to close down Al Jazeera within ten days in order for the blockade on it to be lifted.
A group of Arab countries, headed by Saudi Arabia, have issued a list of wide ranging demands to Qatar insisting that Doha must cut back on its relations with Iran; end its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and shut down a number of news sites.
The 13 point list obtained by the Associated Press (AP) may form the basis of negotiations between the Gulf nations in order to end the blockade, whose stated objectives have been questioned by many, including allies of Saudi Arabia.
Qatari officials have made no response to the demands yet, however Doha has previously said it would not negotiate with its neighbours to resolve the Gulf dispute unless they first lift the trade and travel boycott. It has also previously declared that there are a number of demands it would never meet, including shutting down Al Jazeera.
The list marks the latest major development since Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain broke ties with Qatar earlier this month. The Arab states cut diplomatic ties and imposed a blockade after accusing Doha of supporting terrorism; aligning with Iran; and undermining the interest of the Arab countries. Qatar has vehemently denied that it supported terrorist groups and maintains that the blockade was an attempt to undermine its own sovereignty.
On Tuesday, the US State Department questioned the stated reasons for the blockade and offered a stinging rebuke at Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies saying it had provided no justification for its punitive action.
“Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the Qataris, nor to the public, the details about the claims they are making toward Qatar,” Heather Nauert, the state department spokeswoman, said.
While the list makes no specific calls for regime change, the wide ranging demands would be seen as exacting unfair punitive measures that undermine Qatar’s sovereignty. In addition to the specific demands, it calls on Qatar to align itself politically with GCC countries and focus on countering Iran, which Saudi and its allies, as well as US and Israel, see as the major threat in the region.
Some of the demands:
- Shut down Al Jazeera channels
- Shut down Arabi21, the New Arab, Sharq and Middle East Eye
- Stop funding any “extremist entities” designated as terrorist groups by the US
- Hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain) countries for terrorism
- Qatar must refuse to naturalise citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar
- Qatar must shut down diplomatic posts in Iran; kick out from Qatar any members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard. An only trade deal that is acceptable within the 2015 US, Iran nuclear deal is tolerated
The Arab countries have warned Qatar that it had ten days to meet the conditions or else they would be considered void. They have also insisted on imposing a monitoring mechanism which would report regularly on Qatar’s compliance with the demands.