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Arab states demand al-Jazeera’s closure in list sent to Qatar

Reuters, DUBAI

Staff members of al-Jazeera International work at a news studio in Doha on Jan. 1, 2015.

Photo: AP

Four Arab states boycotting Qatar over alleged support for terrorism have sent Doha a list of 13 demands, including closing al-Jazeera television and reducing ties to their regional adversary Iran, an official of one of the four countries said.

The demands aimed at ending the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years appear designed to quash a two decade-old foreign policy in which Qatar has punched well above its weight, striding the stage as a peace broker, often in conflicts in Muslim nations.

Doha’s independent-minded approach, including a dovish line on Iran and support for Muslim groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, has incensed some of its neighbors who see political Islam as a threat to their dynastic rule.

The list, compiled by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, which cut economic, diplomatic and travel ties with Doha on June 5, also demands the closing of a Turkish military base in Qatar, the official told reporters.

Turkish Minister of National Defense Fikri Isik rejected the demand, saying any call for the base to be shut would represent interference in Ankara’s relations with Doha.

He suggested instead that Turkey might bolster its presence.

“Strengthening the Turkish base would be a positive step in terms of the Gulf’s security,” he said. “Re-evaluating the base agreement with Qatar is not on our agenda.”

Qatar must also announce it is severing ties with terrorist, ideological and sectarian organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State group, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Arab official said, and surrender all designated terrorists on its territory.

The four Arab nations have accused Qatar of funding terrorism, fomenting regional instability and cozying up to revolutionary theocracy Iran. Qatar has denied the accusations.

Qatari officials did not reply immediately to requests for comment.

However, on Monday, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Qatar would not negotiate with the four states unless they lifted their measures against Doha.

The nations gave Doha 10 days to comply, failing which the list becomes “void,” the official said without elaborating, suggesting the offer to end the dispute in return for the 13 steps would no longer be on the table.

“The demands are so aggressive that it makes it close to impossible to currently see a resolution of that conflict,” said Olivier Jakob, a strategist at Switzerland-based oil consultancy Petromatrix GmbH.

Several Qataris who spoke to reporters described the demands as unreasonable.

“Imagine another country demanding that CNN be closed,” said 40-year-old Haseeb Mansour, who works for telecom operator Ooredoo.

Abdullah al-Muhanadi, a retired public sector employee shopping for groceries in Doha yesterday morning, said the boycott must be lifted before negotiations to resolve the dispute could start.

“There’s a lot on the list that is simply not true or unreasonable, so how can we comply?” he said.

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