Saudi-led bloc ‘cannot shrink list of demands on Qatar’

Top officials from main countries boycotting Qatar meet in Bahrain to reiterate demand that Doha ‘stops funding terror’.

Four Arab countries boycotting Qatar will only enter dialogue to ease the dispute if Doha agrees to certain demands, and “fights terror”, the group said on Sunday as they met in Manama.

High-level officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt reiterated their positions on the Gulf crisis, condemning Qatar for what they perceive as Doha’s support for armed groups.

Qatar has repeatedly denied those allegations.

“The four countries are ready for dialogue with Qatar with the condition that it announces its sincere willingness to stop funding terrorism and extremism and its commitment to not interfere in other countries’ foreign affairs and respond to the 13 demands,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said after meeting his counterparts.

The televised news conference in Manama came more than one month after the Saudi-led bloc cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the country.

As part of the boycott, the four countries also expelled Qatari expatriates.

The group on Sunday acknowledged that Qatari citizens had suffered as a result of their siege.

Refusing to negotiate

However, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir refused to negotiate on a list of 13 demands on Doha that was received by Qatar more than two weeks after the crisis broke out. 

Scaling down relations with Iran, closing down Al Jazeera and shutting a Turkish military base, which is currently under construction, were included in that list of demands. 

“[Qataris] speak of every issue except how to put an end to their support of terrorism,” said Jubeir, accusing Qatar of not being “genuine”.

“These demands are not negotiable. We cannot shrink [the list] down,” he said.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani dismissed Sunday’s statement from the four countries and said sanctions were violating international laws.

“There isn’t a clear vision (from Manama’s meeting), there is only a stubborn policy from the blockading countries and refusal to admit that these are illegal actions,” Sheikh Mohammed told Al Jazeera.

“It’s a continuation of a policy of intransigence.”

READ MORE: Qatar-GCC crisis – All the latest updates

The group also hit back at Qatar’s claims that the bloc was politicising the Hajj pilgrimage by restricting the journey to some Qataris.

The bloc is only allowing Qatari pilgrims to fly to Saudi’s Mecca from an airport in Doha, making the journey challenging for those who live or work abroad, such as students.

“I think this press conference confirms that we are at the first day of the crisis. We have not moved for the last 50-plus days, we haven’t moved anywhere,” Mahjoob Zweiri, professor at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera.

“It seems they are not convinced and are insisting on the list of demands. They are singing a different song. The international community has a very positive impression about Qatar in fighting terrorism, but the four countries are not sharing the same impression as the international community.”

Zweiri explained that the status quo is likely to prevail for now.

“We should expect reaction from Washington, Germany and the UK tonight or tomorrow. I think Tillerson will be upset after what he heard today,” he said, referring to Rex Tillerson, the US state secretary, who has previously voiced support for Qatar.

John Yearwood, the chairman of the International Press Institute, said that the latest information was “deeply disappointing”.

“We condemn it in the strongest terms possible – the new demand that Al Jazeera [Media] Network be shut down.

“Throughout the world Al Jazeera plays a very important role in getting information unbiased to citizens of the region. And any attempt to shut down Al Jazeera goes against free flow of information,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera