TUE 25 - 7 - 2017
 
Date: Jul 7, 2017
Source: The Daily Star
Four Arab states leading Qatar boycott say initial demands void, vow more measures
Reuters
CAIRO/WASHINGTON: The four Arab states leading the boycott against Qatar said late on Thursday that Doha's refusal of their demands to resolve a Gulf diplomatic crisis is proof of its links to terror groups and that they would enact new measures against it. The move came as the U.S. State Department announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would visit Kuwait Monday, in an attempt to ease tensions.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain released a joint statement carried by the countries' state media saying their initial list of 13 demands was now void and pledging new political, economic and legal steps against Qatar.

The Qatari government sabotaged diplomatic efforts to solve the rift, the four states said, and its refusal affirmed its continuing sabotage of the region's stability and security.

Any measures taken by the four states would be aimed at the Qatari government but not its people, they said, without elaborating on when the new steps would be announced or what they would entail.

Foreign ministers from the four states convened in Cairo the day before after the expiry of a 10-day deadline for their demands to be met. They condemned the tiny Gulf nation's response as "negative" and lacking in content.

Since last month, the countries have cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, which they accuse of supporting terrorism and allying with regional foe Iran. Doha denies the charges.

Among their demands were orders for Qatar to curtail its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shut down the pan-Arab al Jazeera TV channel, close a Turkish military base in Doha and downgrade its ties with Iran.

Meanwhile, the United States is increasingly concerned that the rift between Qatar and other Arab states is at an impasse and could drag on for a long time or intensify, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

Underscoring U.S. concerns about a crisis involving key allies in the Middle East, the department said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to visit Kuwait, which is mediating in the dispute, on Monday.

In the latest top-level U.S. contact with officials of the countries involved in the dispute, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis discussed the importance of easing tensions in a phone call with Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah on Thursday.

"We remain very concerned about that ongoing situation between Qatar and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

"We've become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point. We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks. It could drag on for months. It could possibly even intensify," she said.

Mattis discussed the state of relations among Gulf Arab states and "the importance of de-escalating tensions" in his call with Attiyah, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The two officials "affirmed the strategic security partnership" of their countries and Mattis emphasized the importance of Qatar's contributions to the U.S.-led coalition fighting Daesh (ISIS), it added.

Qatar hosts the largest U.S. Air Force base in the region. Saudi Arabia has been a close U.S. ally for decades, and U.S. President Donald Trump sealed a $110 billion arms deal with the kingdom during a visit in May.

The rift opened days after Trump met Arab leaders in Riyadh in May and called for unity against Iran and hardline Islamist militant groups.

Trump discussed the crisis in phone calls with leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, on Sunday, reiterating the importance of "stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology," according to the White House.


 
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