Saudi-led coalition gives Qatar 2 more days to meet demands

03 July 2017

Saudi Arabia and three allies boycotting Qatar have agreed to a request by Kuwait to extend by 48 hours Sunday's deadline for Doha to comply with a set of demands, according to a joint statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudi-led coalition including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have extended the deadline by 48 hours for Qatar to respond to a list of demands from the coalition, according to the Saudi ministry of foreign affairs and various media reports. The coalition had cut air, sea and land links with Qatar over accusations the country is supporting terrorism.

The request for an extension came from the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who has been acting as a mediator between the coalition and Qatar.

He made the request after receiving assurances from the Qataris that they would deliver their response to him by Monday, the original deadline, the state-run Qatar News Agency said.

Qatar is at the centre of the biggest diplomatic crisis in the Middle East in decades, which started in early June when nine allies, led by Saudi Arabia, froze ties with the country over its alleged support of terrorism.

Qatar, which shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia, has rejected the accusations, calling them "unjustified" and "baseless".

Last month, the coalition gave Qatar 10 days to meet a list of demands, with 13 preconditions to ending Qatar's isolation, including shutting down the country's state-funded Al Jazeera news network and reducing ties with Iran.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir called the list "non-negotiable" last week. But over the weekend, Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the list was "made to be rejected," adding that Qatar is not afraid of any actions that could be taken against it.

The Saudi-led bloc will deliver a full response after a complete reading of the Qatari government's answer, SPA reported later.

Qatari foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Saturday said his country wouldn't concede any demands that threaten its sovereignty or violate international law, and was prepared to let pass Monday's deadline for complying with the bloc's 13 demands.

 ''There is no fear from our direction. We are ready to face the consequences,'' Al Thani said on Saturday in Rome, where he met with his Italian counterpart. ''There is an international law that should be respected and not violated.''

Foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates are expected to meet on 5 July in Cairo to discuss the latest developments on relations with Qatar, the Egyptian foreign ministry said in an emailed statement.

On Sunday, US President Donald Trump spoke with three Gulf leaders on opposing sides of the dispute.

In a statement, the White House said the President "spoke separately today with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, and Emir Tamin bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar."

Trump "addressed his concerns about the ongoing dispute between Qatar and some of its Gulf and Arab neighbours. He reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology," the statement said.

Al Thani repeated on Saturday that Qatar is willing to sit down and negotiate under the right circumstances. The ultimatum issued 10 days ago was made to be rejected, he said.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed commercial links with Qatar almost a month ago, saying they were isolating the sheikhdom over what they see as its tolerant attitude toward Iran and support for terrorist groups. The group's demands include Qatar severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and ending Turkey's military presence in the country.

Al Thani, in turn, accused the blockading nations of having ties to groups and individuals accused of terrorism.

''As for the countries that accuse Qatar of financing terrorism, they have the same problems as Qatar, more so, they are on top of the list in that area,'' he said. ''There are financial institutes in these countries involved in financing terrorist organisation and financing terrorist operations in western countries.''

The coalition presented Qatar with its requirements to end the standoff after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the Saudi-led bloc to lay out its demands. In a statement on 25 June, Tillerson conceded that Qatar would find it ''very difficult'' to comply with some of the requests.

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