Four Gulf countries are to discuss the Qatar crisis, a month after they severed ties with the state.
The meeting of foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Cairo comes on the day a deadline expires for Qatar to accept a list of demands or face further sanctions.
The demands to Qatar including shutting down the Al Jazeera network and scaling down ties with Iran.
Qatar has called the list of demands “unrealistic and not actionable”.
On July 3, Saudi Arabia and its allies gave Qatar an extra two days to accept their ultimatum for restoring relations, after an earlier 10-day deadline expired.
The authorities in Doha have responded to the demands – but no details have been publicly released. Qatar has said the demands break international law.
On July 4, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani described the demands as unrealistic.
“It’s not about terrorism, it’s talking about shutting down the freedom of speech,” he said.
The four Gulf countries accuse Qatar of harboring Islamist groups that they consider terrorist organizations – including the Muslim Brotherhood – and giving them a platform on the Al Jazeera channel, which is funded by the Qatari state.
Qatar denies the accusations.
As a result of the sanctions, Iran and Turkey have been increasingly supplying Qatar with food and other goods.
On July 4, Qatar announced plans for a steep rise in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production capacity over the coming years.
President Trump’s recent speech in Riyadh, in which he blamed Iran for instability in the Middle East and urged Muslim countries to take the lead in combating radicalization, is seen as likely to have emboldened Gulf allies to act against Qatar.
Image source Wikimedia
He tweeted on June 6: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”
The president later added: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
Qatar is home to the biggest US military air base in the Middle East, with about 8,000 personnel based at al-Udeid.
The official statement from White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the US was in communication with all parties “to resolve issues and restore co-operation”.
In the same week as Donald Trump’s Riyadh speech, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE blocked Qatari news sites, including Al Jazeera.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on June 6 that the economic measures should persuade Qatar to change its policies and behave “like a normal country”.
Speaking in Paris, he called on Qatar’s rulers to end their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and what he called “hostile media”.
“We believe that common sense and logic and will convince Qatar to take the right steps,” Adel al-Jubeir said.
The emir of Kuwait – one of the Gulf countries not involved in the dispute – traveled to Saudi Arabia on June 6 in an attempt to mediate. He later left after a “brotherly visit” but there was no word on the outcome of the talks.