Qatar says the demands are intended only to limit its sovereignty
Al Jazeera says it's an attempt to silence freedom of expression
Four Arab states that have boycotted Qatar have handed the country a list of 13 demands, including some likely to infuriate Doha and exacerbate the region’s worst crisis in decades.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt sent Qatar the list – which includes a demand to shut down the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news network – and gave the country 10 days to comply with the demands. CNN’s Erin Burnett obtained the list, which Qatari officials said is authentic.
Some key demands:
- Shut down the Al Jazeera media network and its affiliates.
- Halt the development of a Turkish military base in the country.
- Reduce diplomatic ties with Iran.
- Cut ties to extremist organizations.
- Stop interfering in the four countries’ affairs.
- Stop the practice of giving Qatari nationality to citizens of the four countries.
Qatar ‘studying’ demands
Qatar confirmed Friday it had received the list and was studying the demands. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would give its official response to Kuwait, which has been acting as the mediator between Qatar and its neighbors.
The director of Qatar’s Government Communication Office, Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, said the demands confirm what Qatar has said from the beginning: “The illegal siege has nothing to do with combating terrorism, (but) it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy.”
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee said some of the demands violate international human rights conventions, according to a Qatar News Agency story tweeted Friday by the foreign ministry.
It raised concerns about the closure of Al Jazeera, citizenship rights and extraditions.
“NHRC noted that Qatar’s acceptance of these demands and conditions would subject the country to international accountability and violate its obligations on human rights conventions. In this context NHRC urged the state of Qatar not to accept those demands,” the article said.
After US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he hoped the demands would be “reasonable and actionable,” and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the demands should be “measured and realistic,” Al-Thani said the list does not satisfy any of those criteria.
Al Jazeera said any call to close down the network is an attempt to silence freedom of expression in the region.
“We assert our right to practice our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority and we demand that governments respect the freedom of media to allow journalists to continue to do their jobs free of intimidation, threats and fear-mongering,” it said in a statement.
Demands have an expiration date
A senior UAE government official accused Qatar of leaking the list in an attempt to undermine mediation efforts and regional stability.
“The leakage will further exasperate & prolong the Qatar crisis. Undermining serious diplomacy will lead to parting of ways,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.
The Arab nations cut ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region.
The four countries say the list will become void if Qatar fails to comply within the 10-day period.
They called on Qatar to sever ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Jabhat Fateh al Sham.
Qatar – which shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia – has rejected accusations it supports terrorism, calling them “unjustified” and “baseless.”
The list of demands was presented to Qatar by Kuwait and was released more than two weeks after Saudi Arabia led a coordinated freeze by nine countries on diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar.
The list also demands that Qatar pay reparations to the four countries for damages or costs incurred because of Qatari policies.
It says the demands will be monitored and involve monthly reports in the first year, then every three months the next year, then annually for 10 years, the official reportedly said.
Earlier this week, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington was “mystified” by the failure of Saudi Arabia and its allies to justify the ongoing isolation of Qatar, a key US partner in the fight against ISIS.
“The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” she said.
Saudi Arabia has severed all land, sea and air links with Qatar, and Qatar Airlines has had to cancel or reroute some flights that usually use the airspace of the boycotting nations.
On Friday, Qatar’s transport minister said the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization had decided to hold a hearing on June 30 regarding the air embargo on Qatar, state media reported.
Turkey defends Qatar base
Since the onset of Qatar’s isolation, Turkey has fast-tracked a decision to approve the deployment of troops to Qatar – part of an existing bilateral agreement but widely interpreted as a show of support for the increasingly isolated country.
Friday, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik tried to allay criticism of the Turkish base in Qatar and warned against intervention.
“I can say that the Turkish base in Qatar is for the training of Qatari soldiers and for the security of Qatar and the region. No one should be uncomfortable by this,” he told Turkish channel NTV on Friday.
“I have not seen this request officially, but if it exists then it would be construed as intervening in bilateral relations.”
Why the crisis?
The diplomatic crisis came two weeks after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt blocked several Qatari media outlets – including Al Jazeera – over comments allegedly made by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Qatari citizens were expelled from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, and those countries also banned their own citizens from entering Qatar.
Al-Thani reportedly hailed Iran as an “Islamic power” and criticized US President Donald Trump’s policy towards Tehran on a news website.
Qatar said the website was hacked and US officials later told CNN that US investigators believe Russian hackers were behind it.
US officials said the goal of the Russians appeared to be creation of a rift among the US and its allies.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are at odds over a number of regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and what Saudis see as Tehran’s growing influence in the kingdom’s sphere of influence, especially in Syria, Lebanon and neighboring Yemen.
CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi reported and wrote from Abu Dhabi and CNN’s Larry Register reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Tuqa Khalid, Angela Dewan, Heba Moussa, Alireza Hajihosseini and Victoria Brown contributed to this report.