Egypt: Qatar has chance to change course and enhance regional security

Egypt has called on Qatar to choose between regional security or emboldening foreign powers in the Arab world.

Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry made the comments ahead of a deadline for Doha to respond to a list of demands from Arab countries to end its isolation.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain issued the 13 requests last week in a bid to end the dispute over Qatar’s alleged support of extremist groups.

The “ball is in Qatar’s court”, Mr Shoukry said late Wednesday. By agreeing to the demands Qatar can reposition itself on the side of promoting Arab national security or falter and continue with its “failed attempt to destabilise the region and undermine Arab affairs in favour of rogue groups”, he said.

Egypt joined the other Gulf countries in isolating Qatar earlier this month by cutting off diplomatic ties and closing down air, sea and land routes, They accuse the country of funding terrorist organisations in an attempt to interfere in domestic politics in the Arab world.

Among the demands sent to Qatar on June 22 were a request to scale down its relationship with Iran and close the Al Jazeera news network.

Most important to Egypt is the demand that Qatar “sever ties to all terrorist organisations” and specifically its reported funding of the Muslim Brotherhood both in Cairo and throughout the Middle East. Qatar has until Saturday to comply.

The UAE energy minister said on Thursday his country has sufficient resources to ward off any energy shortfall stemming from Gulf countries’ standoff with key gas supplier Qatar.

Suhail Al Mazrouei, the energy minister, said on Thursday that the UAE had “a backup plan that we can source fuel from” if Qatar retaliated by cutting gas supplies.

The UAE has no concerns about any shortfall “now or ever”, Mr Al Mazrouei told AP at an International Energy Agency conference in Paris.

Qatar supplies about a third of the UAE’s daily natural gas needs.

Efforts to mediate the crisis have stalled as the worst diplomatic crisis in the GCC’s history looks to continue into its fourth week.

The US’s stance on the row has been unclear. Days after the beginning of crisis, US president Donald Trump claimed credit for encouraging the move to isolate Qatar and congratulated Saudi Arabia on taking measures.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson has attempted to manoeuvre into the role of mediator and hosted a number of Gulf officials in Washington this week.

US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, on Wednesday said Mr Trump’s focus had been on trying to stop Qatari funding of extremist goups.

“Yes we have an air base there, yes there is some ties, but he sees the priority as cutting and getting rid of terrorism right there at the top,” she said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington.

On Wednesday, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, described the situation for Qatar as “dire” as the “moment of truth is drawing near” for Doha to make a decision on the demands.

Last week, Dr Gargash threatened Doha with “divorce”, saying the UAE and allies had been tolerant of the country’s attempts to destabilise the region.

On Wednesday, Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani condemned Riyadh’s refusal to negotiate on the list of demands.

“It’s now up to Qatar to end its support for extremism and terrorism,” said Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir on Twitter.

Mr Al Jubeir, who is currently visiting Washington, confirmed that his country will not ease the trade embargo imposed on Qatar until all demands are met.


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