Qatar denounces Arab demands as infringement on sovereignty

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (3rd L) and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (L) inspect a guard of honor during an official welcoming ceremony in Doha, Qatar on February 15, 2017.

Qatar on Saturday dismissed a list of demands, including shutting down of a Turkish military base within its borders, from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in an escalating crisis in the Gulf as unreasonable and an infringement on the emirate’s sovereignty, Agence France-Press reported on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have given Qatar 10 days to meet 13 demands, delivered in a document by mediator Kuwait on Thursday, in return for an end to a three-week-long diplomatic and trade “blockade” of the emirate, imposed due to accusations that the tiny Gulf country supports terrorism.

Qatar strongly denies the allegations and says no evidence has been presented to back them up.

“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning — the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar´s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy,” said Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, head of Qatar´s government communications office, in a statement.

“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 [those] criteria,” Al-Thani added.

Included in the ultimatum is closure of the Doha-based newscaster Al Jazeera; the cutting of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Qaeda and Lebanon´s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement; the handing over of opposition figures wanted by its three neighbors and Egypt; putting a stop to the practice of giving Qatari nationality to citizens of the four countries; the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Iran; and the shutting down of a Turkish military base within its borders.

The document also states that Qatar must consent to monthly compliance audits in the first year after agreeing to the demands, followed by quarterly audits in the second year and annual audits in the following 10 years, Al Jazeera reported.

The list in addition includes a demand that Qatar pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other financial losses allegedly caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years.
The document did not specify what the countries would do if Qatar refuses to comply, although the UAE’s foreign minister said there would be a “parting of ways” with Qatar if it failed to meet the demands.

Al-Jazeera, one of the largest news organisations in the world, responded to the demands by saying it “deplores” calls for it to be taken off air.

“We in the network believe that any call for closing down Al Jazeera is nothing but an attempt to silence freedom of expression in the region and to suppress people´s right to information,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

In the other official response out of Qatar, its Human Rights Committee said the demands represented “gross violations” of basic rights.

As well as cutting diplomatic ties, Qatar´s neighbors closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate´s only land border, vital for its food imports.

Both Turkey and Iran have been supplying desperately needed foodstuffs to the beleaguered country.

Ankara has also upped its deployment of troops to a Turkish base in Qatar, part of a bilateral agreement of cooperation but widely interpreted as a show of support for the increasingly isolated country.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık told broadcaster NTV on Friday that he had not yet seen a request for closure of the base but said Turkey had no plans to review the 2014 agreement that led to its establishment.

“If there is such a demand, it will mean interference in bilateral ties,” Işık said, suggesting instead that Turkey might continue to boost its presence in Qatar.

Amir Handjani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Al Jazeera that the demands are a “non-starter” and they amounted to a request that Qatar give up its sovereignty.

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