Some Saudi-led bloc ‘demands very difficult to meet’

US secretary of state urges Arab states to ‘sit down together’ to try to reach resolution amid major diplomatic crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calls for dialogue between GCC countries [File: Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters]

The US secretary of state has said some demands on Qatar by a group of Arab countries that have imposed a blockade against it “will be very difficult to meet”. 

Nevertheless, in a statement issued on Sunday, Rex Tillerson said the list submitted by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt includes “significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to a resolution”.

“A productive next step would be for each of the countries to sit together and continue this conversation,” said Tillerson, confirming that Qatar had begun the review of the demands issued by the Saudi-led bloc of countries amid the worst crisis in the Gulf in decades.

“We believe our allies and partners are stronger when they are working together towards one goal, which we all agree is stopping terrorism and countering extremism.”

He also called for a “lowering of rhetoric” to “help ease the tension” and said Washington was supporting a mediation effort by Kuwait aimed at defusing the crisis after the four Arab states cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5.

10-day ultimatum

The Saudi-led bloc of countries has reportedly given Qatar 10 days to comply with 13 demands to end the crisis, insisting, among others, that Qatar shut down Al Jazeera, close a Turkish military base and scale down ties with Iran.

Qatari officials immediately dismissed the demands as neither reasonable nor actionable.

“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,” Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of the Qatari government’s communications office, said in a statement on Friday.

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Qatar also said it was reviewing the demands and was preparing an official response after confirming the receipt of the document on Thursday.

Tillerson had previously insisted any demands be “reasonable and actionable”, while his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, said any requests made of Qatar should be “measured and realistic”.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Washington, DC, said Tillerson’s statement on Sunday was the first formal response from the state department since the release of the 13 demands.  

Commenting on Tillerson’s remarks that some of the demands “will be very difficult for Qatar to meet”, he said: “It is an acknowledgement from the secretary of state that some of these demands are clearly not reasonable or actionable – and I think that will be an important marker coming from the US.

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“If you look at the words of Secretary Tillerson, you have to slightly read between the lines, because he has been very careful – all of the countries involved are all close US allies.”

Earlier on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Qatar’s stand on the list of demands, saying that the Saudi-led ultimatum was “against international law”.

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Source: Al Jazeera