Four Arab nations asked Qatar to shut down its international Al Jazeera TV channel, cut ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base, demands that observers said were too drastic and almost impossible to realize fully.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt sent a list of 13 demands to Qatar as a condition to remove the crippling embargo.
The Saudi-led embargo is designed to end Qatar’s longstanding regional ambitions, with its media empire and support for Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. Arab states also asked Qatar to scale back its relations with Iran, regional adversary of Gulf’s Sunni state.
The declaration came after U.S. State Department asked Gulf countries to be more specific on what they want from Qatar or drop the embargo. The declaration, which includes a demand that Qatar close the Turkish military base, was announced after Saudi King Salman talked on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Isik described the demand to shut down Turkish military base as an interference into bilateral relations between Doha and Ankara.
“Strengthening the Turkish base would be a positive step in terms of the Gulf’s security,” Mr. Isik said, adding that Turkey will not re-consider the base agreement with Qatar.
Turkey and Iran, in the meantime, stepped up their efforts to help Qatar reduce the pains of the embargo. Iran has shipped 1,100 tons of fruit and vegetables and is planning to further ship 90 tons of beef to Qatar on a daily basis, Fars news agency reported.
Just shortly after Arab states declared the embargo on Qatar earlier this month, Turkey sent food supplies to Qatar, along with armored vehicles and 23 military personnel. Ankara sent 105 cargo planes of aid to the isolated nations and took part in long-planned joint military exercises in Qatar, Al Jazeera reported.
Gulf countries also demanded Qatar announce severance of ties with terrorist, ideological and sectarian organizations and designate Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham and Hizbollah as terrorist groups.
They asked Qatar to cease funding extremist and terrorist individuals, entities, and organizations, including those designated by the U.S., as a condition to mend fences with the Gulf state. The declaration said Qatar must hand over all designated terrorists, wanted by the 4 countries, and freeze their assets. Cutting ties with any opposition groups in these 4 countries is also among the demands.
On the media front, Qatar was asked to close Al Jazeera TV network as well as Arabi21, Rasd, New Arab and Middle East Eye.
Saudi Arabia and its allies said Qatar must comply with the demands in 10 days, but didn’t specify what would happen if Doha refused to submit.
The UAE foreign minister Anwar Gargash draw an analogy to summarize the process with a marriage metaphor. He told Al-Hayat newspaper, “If Qatar is seeking a separation with its policies, the divorce will happen.”
“Even if its facilities and airport remain open to the world, it will remain detached from its surroundings” he warned.
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