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Gulf countries’ key demands for resolving Qatar crisis

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-07-2017 AFP

Doha: A deadline was extended Monday for Qatar to accept 13 demands by several Arab states in return for lifting a de facto blockade.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, cut ties with Qatar on 5 June and issued their demands on 22 June. The 10-day deadline was extended by 48 hours at the request of the Kuwaiti emir who has been acting as mediator in the crisis.

Here are the key demands:

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel has long been a source of conflict between Doha and its neighbours, who accuse it of bias and fomenting unrest. One of the world’s largest news organisations, it has been repeatedly banned.

Egypt accuses it of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which it blames for violence after the military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

The United Nations said the demand to shut Al-Jazeera and “other affiliated media outlets” was “an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion”.

The Arab countries also demand that Doha cut ties with groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and its allies blacklist as a “terrorist” organisation. They also called on Qatar to hand over opposition figures based in Doha.

The emirate has long hosted exiled Brotherhood figures including the movement’s spiritual leader, Egyptian preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and Khaled Meshaal, former head of the Brotherhood-linked Palestinian movement Hamas. Western governments have concerns about the Brotherhood but have not listed it as a foreign terrorist organisation—nor has the UN.

Another key demand is the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar set to give Turkey a new foothold in the Gulf. Turkey sees Qatar as its top Gulf ally but is also keen to improve relations with regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia. However, Turkey’s parliament approved a troop deployment to the Qatar base just two days after the crisis broke out. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the demands were “against international law”.

Riyadh and its allies want Doha to downgrade its warm diplomatic ties with Tehran, Saudi Arabia’s key regional rival. They accuse Qatar of supporting Iranian-backed groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement—a charge Doha denies.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran sit on opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, where Qatar was part of an alliance fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels until the crisis broke out. Riyadh regularly accuses Tehran of interfering across the Middle East, linking it to instability in the kingdom’s east, where minority Shiites live.

But not all Riyadh’s Gulf neighbours share its hostility towards Iran. Oman and Kuwait retain warm diplomatic ties with Tehran, while the UAE hosts a large Iranian expat population and has strong commercial ties with the Islamic Republic.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said his country wants to bolster relations with Doha. When Saudi Arabia closed the emirate’s only land border—vital for its food imports—Iran shipped in tonnes of fruits and vegetables.

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