DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The latest on the crisis between Gulf Arab states and Qatar (all times local):
The top Qatari envoy to the United States says his country is under no pressure economically to resolve the diplomatic crisis that has led its neighbors to impose a de facto blockade.
Qatari Ambassador Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani says Qatar’s situation is “very comfortable” despite the siege. He tells The Associated Press that Qatar “could continue forever like that, with no problems.”
Still, Al Thani says Qatar wants to resolve the crisis because it undermines the fight against terrorism and because of humanitarian concerns such families being separated.
Al Thani says Qatar is still evaluating the list of demands that Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations presented Thursday. But he says it shows an attempt to suppress free media and undermine Qatar’s sovereignty.
He says the other countries are “bullies.”
The White House says the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Arab nations is a “family issue” that the nations should work out among themselves.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer isn’t commenting on specific demands that Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have placed on Qatar, including the shutdown of Al-Jazeera. Spicer says the U.S. is willing to play a “facilitating role” in the discussion. But he says he’s not going to get into the middle of the discussion.
A U.S. State Department official says the U.S. is calling for “restraint” from all sides so that “productive diplomatic discussions” can occur. But the U.S. isn’t commenting on whether the demands fulfill Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s earlier request that their demands be “reasonable and actionable.”
The official wasn’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.
–Josh Lederman in Washington
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he is following the situation with Qatar “with deep concern” and hopes the countries involved resolve the situation through dialogue.
U.N. spokeswoman Eri Kaneko said Friday that the United Nations is ready to assist in mediating if requested.
She said, “any resolution or basis for discussion should be consistent with international law including human rights and international humanitarian law as well as the U.N. Charter as all countries concerned are U.N. member states.”
The Emirati ambassador to the United States says that Qatar will remain cut off from its neighbors if it refuses to consent to their list of demands.
Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba of the United Arab Emirates tells The Associated Press the measures taken against Qatar “are there to stay until there is a long-term solution to the issue.”
Still, he’s suggesting the actions to pressure Qatar will remain economic and diplomatic. Otaiba says “there is no military element to this whatsoever.”
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut off ties to Qatar earlier this month, accusing it of funding terrorism and fomenting unrest.
The U.S. has offered to help mediate. But Otaiba says the Kuwaitis will take the lead. He says it’s an Arab issue that requires an Arab solution
A senior United Arab Emirates official has accused Qatar of sharing with the media demands made against it by four Arab states, saying the move undermines efforts to resolve the crisis.
Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash made the accusation on Twitter on Friday. He says sharing the document is either an “attempt to undermine serious mediation or yet another sign of callous policy.”
Gargash says publicizing the demands will prolong the Qatar crisis and that undermining “serious diplomacy will lead to parting of ways.”
The UAE is one of four countries that have cut ties with Qatar and on Thursday presented it with a list of demands to end the crisis. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the 13-point list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.
The acting managing director of Al-Jazeera’s English language service has denounced demands by Gulf Arab states involved in a major dispute with Qatar that the network be shut down as an attempt to suppress free expression.
Instead, Giles Trendle says Al-Jazeera is committed to continuing broadcasts. He told The Associated Press on Friday that the network stands firm in providing “our usual comprehensive and impartial coverage of events around the world.”
He says demands to shut the network are “nothing but an attempt to muzzle a voice of democracy in the region and suppress freedom of expression.”
A 13-point list of demands delivered to Qatar by Saudi Arabia and other countries pressuring the Gulf state called for Doha-based Al-Jazeera and all its affiliates to be shut down.
State-run Qatar Petroleum says that some critically important employees “may have been asked to postpone” trips abroad “for operational reasons” as a result of the embargo by Gulf Arab states against Qatar.
The company described the move early on Friday as “a very limited measure that could take place in any oil and gas operating company” to ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to customers.
It says “no employee, under any circumstances, (has) been asked to remain against their consent.”
Under Qatari law, foreigners working in the country must secure their employer’s consent to receive an exit permit allowing them to leave. The practice, which has been in place for years, has been assailed by rights groups who say it limits workers’ freedom of movement and leaves them open to abuse.
Turkey says it has no plans to shut down its military base in Qatar as demanded by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations that have cut ties with Doha.
Kuwait — which is mediating between Qatar and its Arab neighbors — presented a list of those states’ demands to the Qataris. The list includes an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday the Turkish base aims to train Qatari soldiers and increase the tiny Gulf nation’s security.
Isik says in comments reported by Milliyet newspaper’s online edition that “no one should be disturbed by” the Turkish presence in Qatar.
Turkey has sided with Qatar in the dispute and its parliament has ratified legislation allowing the deployment of Turkish troops to the base. The military said a contingent of 23 soldiers reached Doha on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor 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 Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke ties with Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism — an accusation that President Donald Trump has echoed. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.
Qatari officials in Doha did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP. But the list included conditions that the gas-rich nation had already insisted would never be met, including shutting down Al-Jazeera. Qatar’s government has said it won’t negotiate until Arab nations lift their blockade. The demands were also likely to elicit Qatari objections that its neighbors are trying to dictate its sovereign affairs by imposing such far-reaching requirements.
Only a day earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had warned the demands must be “reasonable and actionable.” The U.S. issued that litmus test amid frustration at how long it was taking Saudi Arabia and others to formalize a list of demands, complicating U.S. efforts to bring about a resolution to the worst Gulf diplomatic crisis in years.
According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.
They are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four countries for terrorism; stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S.; and provide detailed information about opposition figures that Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations.
Qatar vehemently denies funding or supporting extremism. But the country acknowledges that it allows members of some extremist groups such as Hamas to reside in Qatar, arguing that fostering dialogue with those groups is key to resolving global conflicts.
Qatar’s neighbors have also accused it of backing al-Qaida and the Islamic State group’s ideology throughout the Middle East. Those umbrella groups also appear on the list of entities whose ties with Qatar must be extinguished, along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the al-Qaida branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.
More broadly, the list demands that Qatar align itself politically, economically and otherwise with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional club that has focused on countering the influence of Iran. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led nations have accused Qatar of inappropriately close ties to Iran, a Shiite-led country and Saudi Arabia’s regional foe.
The Iran provisions in the document say Qatar must shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, kick out from Qatar any members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and only conduct trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. sanctions. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were eased but other sanctions remain in place.
Cutting ties to Iran would prove incredibly difficult. Qatar shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran which supplies the small nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup its wealth.
Not only must Qatar shut down the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, the list says, but also all of its affiliates. That presumably would mean Qatar would have to close down Al-Jazeera’s English-language sister network.
Supported by Qatar’s government, Al-Jazeera is one of the most widely watched Arabic channels, but it has long drawn the ire of Mideast governments for airing alternative viewpoints. The network’s critics say it advances Qatar’s goals by promoting Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood that pose a populist threat to rulers in other Arab countries.
The list also demands that Qatar stop funding a host of other news outlets including Arabi21 and Middle East Eye.
If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
Hussain Al-Qatari in Kuwait, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Vivian Salama in Washington contributed to this report.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
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