KUWAIT CITY: Qatar on Monday responded to a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies after they agreed to give a defiant Doha another 48 hours to address their grievances.
Details of the response were not immediately available, but a Gulf official told Agence France-Presse that Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani had delivered it during a short visit to Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator in the crisis.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had announced in the early hours of Monday they were pushing back a deadline for Qatar to agree to a list of 13 demands they issued on June 22.
A joint statement said they were extending the ultimatum, which had been due to expire at the end of the day on Sunday, at the request of Kuwait’s emir.
The demands included Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood, closing broadcaster Al-Jazeera, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base in the emirate.
Sheikh Mohammed had earlier said the list of demands was “made to be rejected” and on Monday British lawyers for Qatar denounced the demands as “an affront to international law.”
“They are reminiscent of the extreme and punitive conduct of ‘bully’ states that have historically resulted in war,” said the lawyers.
In the evening, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir expressed hopes for a “positive response to be able to resolve the crisis.”
Qatar’s reply would be “examined with precision”, Jubeir told a news conference with German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia and its allies announced on June 5 they were severing ties with their Gulf neighbour, sparking the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the region in decades.
They accused Qatar of supporting extremism and of being too close to Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival Iran, which Doha has strongly denied.
The crisis has raised concerns of growing instability in the region, home to some of the world’s largest energy exporters and several key Western allies who host US military bases.
The UN Security Council has told Qatar to sort out its differences with its Gulf neighbours, China’s UN ambassador Liu Jieyi said in New York Monday, indicating that the top UN body has no plans to get involved in the dispute.
Disunity could weaken’ parties
Gabriel, who will also visit the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, on called for “serious dialogue” to end the crisis.
“We are worried that the distrust and the disunity could weaken all the parties concerned as well as the entire peninsula,” said the German minister.
Riyadh and its supporters have already severed air, sea and ground links with Qatar, cutting off vital routes for imports including food.
They also ordered Qatari citizens to leave their territories and took various steps against Qatari firms and financial institutions.
It is unclear what further measures will be taken if Qatar fails to meet the demands, but the UAE’s ambassador to Russia Omar Ghobash warned last week that further sanctions could be imposed.
As well as taking steps to expel Qatar from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, Riyadh and its allies could tell their economic partners to choose between business with them or with Doha, he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Qatar has long pursued a more independent foreign policy than many of its neighbours, who tend to follow the lead of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Trump calls leaders
Doha has said it is ready for talks to end the crisis.
Kuwait, which along with fellow GCC member Oman has not cut ties with Qatar, has been heading up mediation efforts.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also called for compromise and hosted senior Gulf officials, but his efforts have been undermined by remarks from President Donald Trump apparently supporting Riyadh’s position.
Trump spoke separately on Sunday with the Saudi king, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and the Qatari emir about his concerns over the dispute, the White House said.
The US president “underscored that unity in the region is critical” but also “reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology,” a statement said.
Egypt said it would host the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is expected to visit Paris “before the end of the summer” for talks on the Gulf crisis with President Emmanuel Macron, the French presidency said Monday.
The two leaders spoke by phone and Macron said hhe would bring up the issue on the margins of this week’s G20 summit and with Trump when he visits Paris on July 13-14.
Meanwhile Germany announced that Saudi King Salman had cancelled plans to attend the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg. AFP