Arab states extend deadline for Qatar in move to end Gulf crisis

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attends the 4th Summit of Arab States and South American countries in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on November 11, 2015. Picture: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attends the 4th Summit of Arab States and South American countries in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on November 11, 2015. Picture: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
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A group of Arab nations yesterday gave Qatar a further 48 hours to respond to their list of demands, in an effort to break the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. The extension was requested by the emir of Kuwait, who is attempting to mediate in the dispute.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut off ties with 2022 Fifa World Cup host Qatar on 5 June, restricting access to their airspace and ports and sealing the state’s only land border, which it shares with Saudi Arabia.

The countries issued a 13-point list of demands – including the closure of news group Al Jazeera, which is partly funded by Qatar’s ruling family, end support of Islamist movements and sever ties with Iran – on 22 June and gave Qatar ten days to comply.

The new deadline would expire later today or early tomorrow. Foreign ministers of the four Arab nations will meet tomorrow in Cairo to discuss their next moves, Egypt said. The statement said: “The response of the four states will then be sent following the study of the Qatari government’s response and assessment of its response to the whole demands.”

US president Donald Trump has spoken to Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi. The White House said Mr Trump urged unity and stressed the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology.

A separate statement on the official Qatar News Agency said the emir’s discussion with Mr Trump touched on the need to fight terrorism and extremism in all its forms and sources, and was a chance for the countries to review their bilateral strategic relations.

The four nations cut ties to Qatar over allegations it supports extremists and over concerns it maintains too-close ties to Shiite power Iran.

Qatar has long denied sponsoring extremist groups and maintains ties to Iran as it shares a massive offshore natural gas field with the country.

Qatari defence minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah said: “Qatar is not an easy country to be swallowed by anyone. We are ready. We stand ready to defend our country. I hope that we don’t come to a stage where a military intervention is made.”

Qatari supermarkets saw panic buying when the four countries initially cut ties. But the capital, Doha, was largely calm over the weekend as residents waited to see how the crisis would play out.

Abdelaziz al-Yafaei, a DOha local, said he was reassured that things would be fine, regardless of what happens over the next days.

“We have a government, thank God, that is wise and knows how to provide for all of our needs, how to maintain security,” he said.

“We have enough funds in the country, on the economic side. All of the affairs are headed for the better.”

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, showed no signs of backing down in during a press briefing in Rome on Saturday, saying the demands were never meant to be accepted and that his country “is prepared to face whatever consequences”.

While in Rome, Mr Thani met with Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano, who gave his backing to ongoing mediation efforts led by Kuwait. The US last week urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to stay “open to negotiation” with Qatar.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has separately spoken with the leaders of Qatar and Bahrain, urging direct dialogue among all the states involved, according to statements from the Kremlin.