A government official in Qatar said on Wednesday that the four Arab countries blockading it have acted dangerously and in a “disorganised manner” after apparently changing their demands.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain said Tuesday that Qatar should commit to six principles on combatting “terrorism” and negotiate a plan to implement them. The four countries had initially made 13 sweeping demands, including shuttering Al Jazeera, which Qatar dismissed as an infringement on its sovereignty.
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Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of the Qatari government’s communications office, said the four countries have “regularly issued conflicting statements”.
He said there had been no official communication made to Qatar directly or via Kuwait or the United States, who have tried to mediate the crisis.
“These latest comments are another example of the dangerous and disorganised manner in which the illegal blockade has been conducted,” he said in an emailed response to questions from The Associated Press.
“At first there were no demands, but following pressure from mediating countries, the blockaders leaked a list of demands that was quickly deemed neither reasonable nor actionable,” he added.
The apparently new list of six demands includes commitments to combating “extremism” and “terrorism”, preventing financing and safe havens for armed groups, and suspending all acts of provocation and speeches inciting hatred or violence.
Qatar denies it has ever sponsored or supported “terror” groups and says the accusations are politically motivated.
The new list drops old demands that Qatar close down Al Jazeera; curb ties with Iran; kick out troops from NATO member Turkey, which has a base in Qatar; expel wanted figures; and pay reparations for damages allegedly caused by its policies.
The four countries accuse Qatar of supporting groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and say Qatar has given citizenship to wanted Brotherhood members and other figures.
Qatar’s foreign policy stances have at times sharply contradicted Saudi and Emirati policy in the Middle East.
Qatar has backed opposition groups across the region, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt deem a threat.
The US state department in its annual country reports on “terrorism” released on Wednesday said Qatar had “maintained a strong partnership in the fight against terrorism in 2016 and collaborated to foster closer regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism, law enforcement and rule of law activities”.
Qatar, it added, has made “significant progress” in combating “terrorist financing” but “terrorist financiers within the country are still able to exploit Qatar’s informal financial system”.
The six ‘principles’:
Abdallah al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters on Tuesday that the four countries are now committed to the six principles agreed on by their foreign ministers at a July 5 meeting in Cairo.
Commitment to combat extremism and terrorism in all their forms and to prevent their financing or providing havens.
Suspending all acts of provocation and speeches inciting hatred or violence.
Full compliance with the Riyadh Agreement of 2013 and the supplementary agreement and its implementation mechanisms of 2014 within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Adherence to all the outcomes of the Arab Islamic American Summit held in May 2017 in Riyadh.
Refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of states and from supporting illegal entities.
The responsibility of all states of the international community to confront all forms of extremism and terrorism as a threat to international peace and security.