Rabat - At the State Department in Washington, DC, Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, met with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on Tuesday to discuss the Gulf crisis and the recent list of demands imposed on Qatar by the blockade countries.
Rabat – At the State Department in Washington, DC, Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, met with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on Tuesday to discuss the Gulf crisis and the recent list of demands imposed on Qatar by the blockade countries.
Carrying his country’s message that the list of 13 demands, delivered last Thursday, are unacceptable and unworkable, Al Thani echoed the US position that the talks should be “rational.”
On Sunday, Tillerson issued a statement in which he acknowledged that some of the demands on the blockade list would be “very difficult for Qatar to meet,” while acknowledging that the list also contains “significant areas which provide a bass for ongoing dialogue leading to a resolution.” From the outset, Tillerson had been urging the blockade states, led by Saudi Arabia, to impose demands which were both “reasonable and actionable.”
The demands were accompanied by a 10-day deadline for compliance by Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister declared earlier on Tuesday that there will be “no negotiations” regarding the blockade’s number one demand that Qatar stop supporting terrorist organizations.
Al-Thani, however, maintained his country’s affront that there has still been no proof offered by the blockade countries regarding those allegations. “What has been presented by the countries of the blockade are merely claims that are not proved by evidence and are not demands.”
Qatar views “real will” by all parties to negotiate as well as transparency regarding evidence in support of their accusations, as critical components to meaningful negotiations. According to Al-Thani, “The demands must be realistic and enforceable. Anything else is rejected… We agree with Washington that the demands should be rational.”
Qatar expulsion from GCC Possible
In an interview with UK newspaper, The Guardian, The United Arab Emirates envoy to Russia, Omar Ghobash, addressed questions regarding possible consequences for Qatar should it fail to comply with the list of demands presented to it, hinting that expulsion from the GCC is highly possible. He also indicated, however, that this is “not the only sanction available.”
“Certain economic sanctions… are being considered right now,” he hinted, such as the imposition of “conditions on trading partners.”
In perhaps the clearest indication yet of just how far the blockade countries are willing to go, Ghobash said “If Qatar was not willing to accept the demands, it is a case of ‘Goodbye Qatar,’ we do not need you in our tent anymore.”
Al Jazeera Amasses Allies
Embattled Qatar network, Al Jazeera, has received the backing of Digital Content Next, a trade organization representing more than 80 media organizations. In a statement released on Monday the association voiced it unequivocal support for the network and its mandate to uphold journalistic integrity worldwide.
“It is vital we value and protect the independence of media organizations and journalists around the world. Any effort to silence journalists or use news organizations as a bargaining chip is an affront to freedom.”
The UAE’s Ghobash, however, see it differently. In his Guardian interview, he clarifies the blockade countries’ position on the demand that the network be shut down. “We do not claim to have press freedom. We do not promote the idea of press freedom. What we talk about is responsibility in speech.”
He further explained that “Freedom of speech has different constraints in different places. Speech in our part of the world has a particular context, and that context can go from peaceful to violent in no time simply because of words that are spoken.”
Saudi FM: “We Made Our Point”
Also in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Saudi foreign minister, Abdel al-Jubeir, made it clear that the demands presented to Qatar are non-negotiable.
The list of demands came weeks after six Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, announced they were severing all diplomatic ties with Qatar, alleging financial support for terrorist organizations and a relationship to Iran which they found too close for their comfort. The blockade followed this announcement almost immediately. The allegations have since been proven to be unfounded, prompting many to believe the reasons for the blockade to be more closely related to an intense dislike for Qatar’s foreign policy.
“We made out point,” he told reporters, “we took steps and it’s up to the Qataris to amend their behaviour and once they do, things will be worked out, but if they don’t they will remain isolated.”