The four Arab countries leading an embargo against Qatar are ready to talk but not to back down from their demands, the quartet’s foreign ministers said in a joint press conference Sunday in Manama, Bahrain.
“Dialogue doesn’t mean there are concessions,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have been enforcing an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar since June 5, saying the Gulf country supports terrorism.
The quartet issued 13 demands that included shutting down Qatar’s al Jazeera TV network and severing ties with Iran.
Qatar denies the charges and calls the demands a breach of its sovereignty.
Emergency air corridors
As part of their restrictions, the quartet countries severed transport links to Qatar, closing their airspace to Qatari-owned or registered flights. The airspace closures cost Qatar Airlines about 50 flights a day, according to CNNMoney.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said Sunday that Qatar Airways can now use nine designated air corridors for emergencies under an agreement with the countries’ aviation authorities.
One of the nine aviation corridors will be over the Mediterranean Sea and will be managed by Egypt’s National Air Navigation Services Company, according to the SPA.
The Saudi aviation authority said in a statement that “this procedure affirms our commitment to safety of the International air navigation. And as it is customary in such circumstances to agree on alternative air corridors for emergencies overseas under our supervision to ease navigation and support air safety.”
However, Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation Authority denied that the four countries had dedicated emergency air routes for Qatari aircraft.
“The Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Civil Aviation Authority confirm that those countries have issued no navigation announcements as followed at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and call upon the blockade countries to not leak such incorrect news before the ICAO Coincil’s extraordinary session, scheduled for tomorrow Monday in Montreal, Canada,” the ministry said in a statement.
The quartet Sunday said negotiations are possible if Qatar shows “real intention” to stop supporting terrorism and interfering in neighboring countries.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, said none of the demands were dropped.
“It has to be black or white,” Al-Jubeir said, saying Qatar either funds terrorism or it doesn’t.
The four countries also rejected charges about Saudi Arabia’s handling of Qatari travel for Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is scheduled to start August 30 this year.
Qatar alleges travel restrictions
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee said Saturday that Saudi Arabia is restricting Qatari access into the country for the rituals of Hajj and Umrah.
Qataris may enter Saudi Arabia through only two airports; and those living outside of Qatar must first return to Doha before entering Saudi territory, the committee said.
The Qatari committee also said similar “violations” occurred during Umrah in the month of Ramadan.
In defending Saudi Arabia, the quartet called the criticism “unacceptable.” The joint statement said Qatar was obstructing its own citizens from attending the pilgrimage.
“We reject what Qatar is doing in politicizing (the pilgrimage),” Al-Jubeir said. “The Qatari pilgrims are welcome.”