Qatar’s foreign minister has rejected a list of 13 conditions set by four Arab states for lifting sanctions, saying it is neither reasonable nor actionable.
Qatar is under strict sanctions from Saudi Arabia and its allies, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. They accuse Qatar of backing terrorism.
Among other things, they have demanded the closure of Al Jazeera TV, which is funded by the Qatari government.
Al Jazeera accused them of trying to ”silence freedom of expression”.
Qatar has been under unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions for more than two weeks, with Iran and Turkey increasingly supplying it with food and other goods.
It denies accusations that it is funding terrorism and fostering regional instability.
The four countries also want Qatar to reduce its ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base, setting a deadline on Friday of 10 days.
What has Qatar’s government said?
The government is reviewing the demands, a spokesman has said.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had asked the four countries to make their demands ”reasonable and actionable”.
However, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, quoted by Al-Jazeera, said: ”The US secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was ‘reasonable and actionable’.
”The British foreign secretary asked that the demands be ‘measured and realistic.’ This list does not satisfy that [sic] criteria.”
He said the demands were proof that the sanctions had ”nothing to do with combating terrorism… [but] limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy”.
In a statement, Al Jazeera said: ”We assert our right to practise our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority.”
What effect are sanctions having?
Qatar’s main import routes – by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from container ships docked in the UAE – have been disrupted and much of the surrounding airspace has been closed to its air traffic.
However, the small but wealthy country has so far avoided economic collapse by finding alternative routes.
Qatari citizens living in neighbouring countries or with family living there have been hit harder, Reuters news agency notes, because of ultimatums issued for them to leave.
Where is the US in this?
Correspondents say there has been frustration in Washington over the time taken by the Saudis and others to formalise their demands.
US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line towards Qatar, accusing it of being a ”high-level” sponsor of terrorism.
However, the Arab states involved in the crisis are all close allies of the US while the largest US base in the Middle East is in Qatar.
A report this morning shows support for President Donald Trump is increasing.
Trump woke up to news that 50% of likely U.S. voters agree with him.
Per Rasmussen Report:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 50% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Fifty percent (50%) disapprove.This is the first time the president’s overall approval rating has hit the 50% mark since late April. His approval rating has ranged from a high of 59% in late January shortly after he took office to a low of 42% in early April.
Other polling results include:
Most Americans think politics is to blame for this week’s shooting attack on Republican members of Congress and aren’t writing it off as just random violence.
By comparison, just 28% said the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of six others in Arizona in January 2011 was the result of political anger.A sizable number of voters, including most Republicans, believe former FBI Director James Comey should be punished for leaking to the media.
As the unemployment rate drops to its lowest level in 10 years, optimism among voters that the U.S. economy is fair has soared to new highs.
Trump is surely smiling at the news and tweeted the report himself:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
The US government has called the growing crisis between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours a ”family issue”.
White House press spokesman Sean Spicer made the comments during an off-camera briefing to journalists in Washington.
Qatar is under strict sanctions from Saudi Arabia and its allies, who have sent it a list of 13 demands it must meet before sanctions are lifted.
Among the demands are that Qatar shutter its Al Jazeera news network and cut back ties to Iran.
The Arab states involved all have close ties with the US, but the US State Department and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have yet to make a formal statement on the demands that were made public on Friday.
”The four countries that are part of that – we believe it’s a family issue and that they should work [it] out,” said Mr Spicer.
”If we can help facilitate those discussions then so be it. They want to, and should work out for themselves.”
Mr Tillerson had been expected to address the issue on Friday.
He had previously anticipated the release of a list of demands from the Saudis and their allies: Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The countries want Qatar to comply to the 13 orders before they will lift severe sanctions, which were first imposed on it earlier this month.
They say Qatar is funding terrorism and fostering regional instability, accusations it denies.
The Qatari foreign ministry confirmed early on Saturday that it had received the list of demands, and would now ”prepare an appropriate response.”
US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line towards Qatar, accusing it of being a ”high level” sponsor of terrorism.
However, the largest US base in the Middle East is in Qatar, meaning it is caught in the middle.
A mess the US helped create – By Paul Danahar, BBC Washington bureau chief
For the White House Press Spokesman Sean Spicer to say ”we believe this is a family issue” is to ignore the role President Trump’s administration played in stoking this conflict.
Tensions between the Gulf States and Qatar have been particularly bad since the 2011 Arab Spring, when Qatar tried to play kingmaker in the region. They heavily invested in the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates.
That angered the Saudis not only because they see themselves as regional top dog, but also because they see the Brotherhood as an existential threat to their hold on power at home.
During President Trump’s visit to the Middle East in May he created the impression in the Arab world that he had picked a side, the Saudi one. That emboldened the Saudis to act against Qatar while the going was good.
Now, if the US does not act to unpick a mess it helped create, no one else can or will and so things are likely to get worse.
An unnamed official from one of the four countries sanctioning Qatar told Reuters news agency that Qatar was also being asked to sever links with so-called Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah.
The demands have not been officially unveiled.
Their publication, first via The Associated Press news agency, has increased the friction between the two sides.
What are the demands?
According to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the list, Qatar must:
- Sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in other Arab states
- Refuse to naturalise citizens from the four countries and expel those currently on its territory, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs
- Hand over all individuals who are wanted by the four countries for terrorism
- Stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the US
- Provide detailed information about opposition figures whom Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations
- Align itself politically, economically and otherwise with the Gulf Co-operation Council
- Stop funding other news outlets in addition to Al Jazeera, including Arabi21 and Middle East Eye
- Pay an unspecified sum in compensation
What if Qatar doesn’t meet the demands?
If 10 days pass and Qatar has failed to comply, the list becomes ”void”, the Reuters source said.
It would appear that at least some of the demands are unacceptable to Qatar.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed said this week his country would not accept any ”foreign dictations” and ”rejected discussing any matter related to the Al Jazeera channel as it considered it an internal affair”.
The sanctions have forced to make alternative arrangements for importing food and other goods. Iran and Turkey are assisting with extra supplies.
Iran has also opened its airspace to flights to and from Qatar, which has been banned from using Saudi and other countries’ airspace.
Oil prices edged lower in European trading on Thursday, as data showing U.S crude stockpiles shrank by less than anticipated, while gasoline inventories increased, underlined fears over a global supply glut.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $44.70 per barrel, also little changed from their last close. For one, higher-than-expected shale oil production in the U.S. partly offset Opec and non-Opec production cuts at the beginning of this year.
Brent crude futures extended losses after the report, falling 64 cents on the day to $48.08 a barrel by 0804 GMT, from around $48.26 prior to the release. Its July schedule is at 1.84 million bpd, slightly higher than the revised June programme that added Forcados.
However, some OPEC members including Nigeria and Libya have been exempt from cutting, and their rising output undermines efforts led by Saudi Arabia. The move is meant to drain the market of excess supply.
OPEC noted the continued high compliance by its members with the supply deal, adding that inventories in industrialised countries dropped in April, even though they were still 251 million barrels above the five-year average.
Oil headed for the longest run of weekly losses since August 2015 as United States crude stockpiles remain stubbornly high and as Libyan production climbs toward the most in four years.
Official figures published last week from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a significant build in inventory levels and traders will look to figures out later Wednesday to see if the trend was an anomaly.
OPEC’s pledge was to cut some 1.2 million bpd, while other producers including Russian Federation would bring the total reduction to nearly 1.8 million bpd.However, some OPEC members including Nigeria and Libya have been exempt from cutting, and their rising output undermines efforts led by Saudi Arabia.
Trade data show OPEC shipments to customers averaged around 26 million bpd in the last six months of 2016 and are set to average around 25.3 million bpd in the first half of this year. The report said the market was rebalancing at a “slower pace”.
It’s not like the Saudis are enjoying significantly higher prices, with Brent crude ending on Tuesday at $48.72 a barrel, perilously close to the $46.38 close the day before the November 30 deal between OPEC and its allies.