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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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Doha continues to suffer repercussions of the crisis but GCC is willing to say 'Goodbye Qatar' if demands aren’t met

Qataris will remain isolated: Saudi Foreing Minister

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DOHA, Qatar - As the impact of the Gulf crisis continues to be felt in Qatar, the country has tried hard to convince its neighbors to negotiate the 13-point list of demands they have handed out to end the crisis. > BNN
After the four Arab states, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accused Qatar of aiding terrorism earlier this month and closed all air, sea and land links - the states handed Qatar the list of demands on Friday. 
The demands include shutting down the Al Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base, cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and reducing ties with Iran.
On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was asked by journalists if the demands were non-negotiable and said “Yes.”
He said, “It's very simple. We made our point. We took our steps and it's up to the Qataris to amend their behaviour. Once they do, things will be worked out. But if they don't, they will remain isolated. If Qatar wants to come back into the [Gulf Co-operation Council] pool, they know what they have to do."
Jubeir stressed that the decision to sever ties with Qatar was made after taking into account the history of its behaviour, which he alleged included harbouring known terrorists and funding extremist groups throughout the region.
While Qatar has denied accusations of aiding terrorism, it has continued to suffer due to the restrictions that have caused turmoil in the oil- and gas-rich nation that is dependent on imports to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million.
On Tuesday, Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani condemned its Gulf neighbours for refusing to negotiate over their demands for restoring air, sea and land links.
Al Thani said the stance was "contrary to the principles" of international relations and called the Saudi position "unacceptable.”
He said in a statement, “This is contrary to the principles that govern international relations because you can't just present lists of demands and refuse to negotiate.”
Meanwhile, in a bid to resolve the crisis, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to have met the Qatari foreign minister at Washington, and held talks with the Saudi Foreign Minister too.
Tillerson acknowledged that some elements would "be very difficult for Qatar to meet", but that there were "significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue.”
Al Thani said post the meeting that the U.S. agreed the demands had to be "reasonable and actionable", and that the allegations against Qatar also needed to be discussed.
He added, “We agree that the State of Qatar will engage in a constructive dialogue with the parties concerned if they want to reach a solution and overcome this crisis."
Meanwhile, adding more worries to the already escalating crisis, the U.A.E. ambassador to Russia said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper that the Gulf Arab states were considering fresh economic sanctions on Qatar.
Omar Ghobash, who is one of the most articulate figures in the row that has racked the region, said, “One possibility would be to impose conditions on our own trading partners and say you want to work with us then you have got to make a commercial choice. If Qatar was not willing to accept the demands, it is a case of 'Goodbye Qatar' we do not need you in our tent anymore."
He said the coalition would be willing to make themselves subject to the same western monitoring regime as Qatar to ensure key figures were not privately funding extremist groups.
As per the demands handed out to Qatar, the Gulf nations are expecting the country to comply by next week or face further as yet unspecified consequences. 
The U.S. and most European heads have been trying to push the two sides into talks in an effort to de-escalate the row.
Many countries fear that if the dispute continues indefinitely, Qatar will be forced to forge more stronger ties with Iran, that is trying to undermine the impact of the embargo by sending food supplies to Doha.
Ghobash said, “We are asking Qatar to make a choice and we realise they may choose to take the route to Iran, and we are willing to accept the consequences of that.”
Further, commenting on whether the closure of al-Jazeera was a reasonable demand, he said, “We do not claim to have press freedom. We do not promote the idea of press freedom. What we talk about is responsibility in speech. Freedom of speech has different constraints in different places. Speech in our part of the world has a particular context, and that context can go from peaceful to violent in no time simply because of words that are spoken.”
Meanwhile, economic sanctions and poor liquidity wrecked havoc in the foreign exchange market for Qatari riyals.
This week, the currency is trading far below its peg to the U.S. dollar, but bankers in the region believe the peg remains solid.
The riyal has been increasingly volatile in the spot market since June 5 when the four Gulf nations cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar.

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