Qatar reviewing "unreasonable" demands by Arab states

UAE says it will not back down from the dispute if Qatar declines to cooperate on the demands. Meanwhile, Doha asks International Civil Aviation Organisation to help reopen Gulf airspace closed to its flights.

Photo by: (AFP)
Photo by: (AFP)

A general view of the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia on June 23, 2017.

Qatar said on Saturday it is reviewing demands presented by four Arab states that have severed ties with the gas-rich Gulf nation, but said the list was not reasonable or actionable.

"We are reviewing these demands out of respect for ... regional security and there will be an official response from our ministry of foreign affairs," Sheikh Saif al-Thani, the director of Qatar's government communications office, said in a statement.

The statement said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had recently called upon Saudi Arabia and the other countries to produce a list of grievances that was "reasonable and actionable."

"This list does not satisfy that criteria," al-Thani's statement added.

TRT World's Soraya Lennie has the latest from Doha.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt have cut ties to Doha since June 5, after Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani was reported to have made statements on the state news agency supporting Iran.

Doha said that the statements were fabricated and was the result of a hack. Al Jazeera reported a massive cross-platform cyber attack on June 8.

A man puts on a car a sticker portraying Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani outside a shop in the capital Doha on June 11, 2017. (AFP/archive)

The four countries issued a steep list of demands on Thursday with a 10-day deadline to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbour shutter Al Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran, and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a 13-point list – presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis – the countries also demand an end to Turkey's military presence in Qatar. The demand to shut the Turkish base has been rejected by Ankara.

Doha confirmed it had received a list of demands on Friday, according to a statement released on state media.

"The state of Qatar announced its receipt of a paper, on June 22, containing demands from the siege countries and Egypt," read a statement on the Qatar News Agency, published in the early hours of Saturday morning local time.

UAE says Arab states will part ways if Qatar does not comply with demands

A senior United Arab Emirates (UAE) official said on Saturday that if Qatar did not accept an ultimatum issued by Arab states which imposed a boycott on the small Gulf Arab nation this month, "the alternative is not escalation but parting ways".

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters that diplomacy, however, was still a priority.

On Friday, UAE said it would not back down if Doha does not engage with the demands. 

"They (demands) are all important. This is a consistent pattern of behaviour that affects all of us," the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said. "We would hope that Qatar reacts by engaging and not by leaking documents and trying to have this litigated in public."

If Qatar does not engage, "things will stay at the status quo, things will stay as they are," he said.

Special hearing on Qatar's request over blocked airspace

The UN aviation agency will hold a special hearing next Friday on Qatar's request to reopen Gulf airspace that was closed to its flights by its neighbours, Qatar's transport minister said on Friday.

Jassim Saif Al Sulaiti said the Gulf state was pushing to "get more routes for Qatar" and wants the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to open international air routes over Gulf waters currently managed by the UAE.

The UAE is among four countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, that have closed their airspace to Qatar, forcing state-owned Qatar Airways to fly longer, more expensive routes.

A pedestrian walks past the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) headquarters building in Montreal, Quebec, Canada June 16, 2017. (Reuters/archive)

This follows concerns by Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker, who recently suggested the UN agency was not working quickly enough to resolve the dispute.

By contrast, Al Sulaiti said he trusted ICAO to find a solution to the dispute, and "take action very quickly."​

Qatar has asked ICAO to use a dispute resolution mechanism in the Chicago Convention, a 1944 treaty that created the agency and set rules for international aviation.

Article 84 of the treaty says that if two states cannot resolve a dispute related to the convention through negotiation, one can ask the council to settle it, although the process is long.

Support for Qatar

US President Donald Trump has taken a tough stance on Qatar, accusing it of being a "high-level" sponsor of terrorism, but he has also offered help to the parties in the dispute to resolve their differences.

Without taking any side, Turkey has backed Qatar during the three-week-old economic blockade on humanitarian grounds.

It sent its first ship carrying food aid to Qatar and dispatched a small contingent of soldiers and armoured vehicles there on Thursday, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Saudi Arabia's leaders on calming tension in the region.

TRTWorld and agencies