Diplomatic Row Between Qatar And Neighbors Escalates

Jun 23, 2017
Originally published on June 23, 2017 7:48 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now an update on that regional trade and diplomatic embargo on the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have given a list of 13 demands to Qatar in order to resolve the dispute that has closed land borders and damaged trade ties. The list includes cutting ties to Iran, expelling extremist groups and shutting down its broadcaster, Al-Jazeera. Here's NPR's Peter Kenyon.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pressed Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to reveal what exactly they want Qatar to do to resolve this crisis. Now they've done so, with Kuwait acting as mediator, and the demands are heavy. Some of the items address the initial complaint against tiny, gas-rich Qatar - its hosting of members of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups. The list demands that members of those groups be expelled and Qatar stop financing terrorist groups - something Doha denies doing.

The four countries want Qatar to close its diplomatic missions in neighboring Iran. The two countries share a giant natural gas field. Another demand is shutting down all the Al-Jazeera television channels. Al-Jazeera's Arabic news channel has long irritated Gulf Arab states, who say the broadcaster provides a platform for terrorist groups, which Al-Jazeera denies. Qatar is also being asked to close a Turkish military base outside of Doha. Turkey's defense minister says the base is intended to provide security to Qatar and the region. Analyst Greg Barton at Deakin University in Australia tells Turkey's state-funded TRT World channel that this list feels like an opening position, and it's unlikely all these demands will be met.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG BARTON: It does seem as if this is Saudi Arabia bullying its little, tiny neighbor and ganging up on it. So Qatar needs to find a way of working with Kuwait and other intermediary powers to find some compromise.

KENYON: Speaking before the list of demands was released, Dubai-based analyst Riad Kahwaji said, unlike a milder diplomatic dispute three years ago, this time Doha really needs to change its behavior.

RIAD KAHWAJI: If Qatar wants back in the alliance - treated as it was treated before - then it will have to change course completely.

KENYON: Qatar has said it has no intention of negotiating while its neighbors continue to maintain economic sanctions against it. Most major trade routes have been closed. And Qatar Airways has suffered a loss of passengers and been forced to avoid its neighbors' airspace, increasing costs. But the impact has been blunted somewhat as Iran and Turkey stepped in to send food and other supplies to Qatar. Doha has been given just 10 days to comply with these broad demands, but so far there is no indication of what might happen if it doesn't. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.