Qatar isolation likely to escalate, new sanctions considered
London- As the deadline for Qatar to comply with the list of demands of its neighbours neared, the likelihood of further isolation from Saudi Arabia and its allies appeared to be a reality the tiny Gulf country will face, with possible ramifications for its global trading partners.
The stalemate held as the deadline approached, with Doha insisting that demands forwarded by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt were unreasonable. Doha called for negotiations, which it had previously dismissed.
Riyadh appears to have become more intransigent about the demands given to Doha. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, posting on Twitter, stated that: “Our demands on Qatar are non-negotiable. It’s now up to Qatar to end its support for extremism and terrorism.”
Jubeir’s statement came as both sides of the stand-off met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington.
“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,” Jubeir said, adding that Qatar knows what it has to do to return to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) fold.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al- Thani, in Washington on June 29, said Doha along with the United States and Kuwait, which is playing a mediator’s role in the crisis, would be preparing responses regarding the 13 demands but did not specify a time frame.
“We have to set the conditions first to pursue these negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed said. However, the likelihood of his response being received well by either Riyadh or Abu Dhabi appeared to be slim, considering statements from Saudi, UAE and Egyptian officials.
Western countries might eventually be forced to choose sides, UAE Ambassador to Russia Omar Saif Ghobash said, a notion which could result in significant economic ramifications on GCC trading partners.
“You’d be forced to choose between wanting to do business with an extremist agenda or wanting to do business with people who are interested in building an acceptable Middle East,” Ghobash told the Times of London.
Ghobash said the Emirates was aware that some countries have significant business dealings with Qatar, which has more than $50 billion in assets in Britain, but asked: “Do you want Qatari money with blood on it?”
“Investments that Qatar is making produce returns in your country that go to groups in Libya, in Iraq, in Syria,” he added.
Ghobash said Gulf countries have a wealth of evidence dealing with Qatar’s alleged financing of terror groups but was not releasing it publicly so as not to embroil Western governments in possible legal ramifications.
“The criticism is: ‘Where’s the evidence?’ I suggest people wonder why there isn’t more evidence coming out. The implications of that evidence will be very serious,” Ghobash said.
Britain-based Lloyds Bank said it would no longer trade in the Qatari riyal. “This currency is no longer available for sale or buy-back across our high street banks including Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland and Halifax,” a spokeswoman for the bank said.
The crisis erupted after statements attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticising US foreign policy and praising Iran were carried by the official Qatari News Agency. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, saying that Qatar continued to interfere in their countries’ internal affairs and supported radical groups such as Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The four countries have given Qatar a list of 13 demands to solve the crisis, which included closing Al Jazeera television, reducing ties with Iran and cutting off links to extremist groups.