Construction cranes stand on the West Bay district skyline beyond moored boats in Doha. (Photographer: Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg)

Saudi Warns Qatar of No Room for Negotiation Over Demands

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar will remain cut off from its neighbors unless it meets the full demands of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, a senior Saudi official said, even as the top U.S. diplomat continued efforts toward a negotiated settlement.

“We made our point, we took our steps and it’s up to the Qataris to amend their behavior,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters Tuesday at his country’s embassy in Washington. Once they do, “then things will be worked out. But if they don’t, they will remain isolated.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed air, sea and land links with Qatar this month, saying they were isolating the sheikhdom over ties to Iran and support for Islamist groups. After U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the bloc to lay out its demands, the coalition last week presented Qatar with 13 requirements to end the standoff. Tillerson met Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Thani in Washington on Tuesday.

The list of demands, which Tillerson has described as “very difficult” for Qatar to comply with, includes shutting down the state-sponsored Al-Jazeera TV network; cutting back diplomatic ties with Iran; severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood; and ending Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. Qatar was given 10 days to respond.

“The moment of truth is approaching,” U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a series of tweets on Wednesday, addressing Qatar as a Gulf “brother.” “Get back to your senses or choose your way without us,” he said.

Qatar has denied supporting terrorism, saying the dispute is really about the Saudis seeking dominance over their neighbors and that the bloc’s action amounts to an illegal siege. Officials have said the Saudi demands don’t meet the criteria set out by the U.S. and U.K. governments for reasonable and realistic measures.

“The blockading nations have presented Qatar with a list of unreasonable demands based on false premises,” Al Thani said in an emailed statement after his meeting with Tillerson. “We do not support terrorism, we do not interfere in the internal affairs of our neighbors, and we are not secret allies of Iran.”

The Gulf flare-up has put the U.S. in a difficult position, because it’s allied with nations on both sides of the dispute. Qatar hosts the regional headquarters for the U.S. Central Command, which includes a state-of-the-art air base the Pentagon depends on to target Islamic State.

“Qatar has begun its careful review and consideration of a series of requests presented by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and U.A.E.,” Tillerson said Sunday. “While some of the elements will be very difficult for Qatar to meet, there are significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution.”

Al-Jubeir maintained Tuesday that Saudi Arabia wouldn’t budge from its stance, saying other countries, including the U.S., want Qatar to cease its activities. President Donald Trump has said the Saudi-led alliance was right to act against Qatar.

Kuwait is helping to mediate the impasse and has been in touch with all sides, including “countries outside the region,” the Saudi minister said.

“Does anyone in the U.S. government support Qatar harboring terrorists and terror financiers? No one,” al-Jubeir said. “We hope that reason will prevail and that our brethren in Qatar will do the right thing.”