Gulf crisis: Saudi axis extends deadline as Qatar rejects demands

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt push back by 48 hours deadline on 13 demands made to Doha

The Saudi-led axis of powers has extended by 48 hours a deadline on 13 demands issued to Qatar, a statement said on Monday morning.

Without stating whether Qatar had rejected the ultimatum, as was widely expected, Kuwaiti state news agency KUNA said Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah had asked Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to grant Qatar an extension.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, was meanwhile in Kuwait, where he is expected to deliver an official response to the demands.

“The list of demands is made to be rejected,” Sheikh Mohammed said on Saturday. “Everyone is aware that these demands are meant to infringe the sovereignty of the state of Qatar.”

The Saudi axis announced on 5 June the severing of ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing “terrorism” and being too close to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.

Demands against Qatar include ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the closure of Al Jazeera television and other media groups, a downgrade of diplomatic ties with Iran and the shutdown of a Turkish military base in the emirate.

The four countries announced on 5 June they were severing ties with their Gulf neighbour, accusing it of backing “terrorism” and being too close to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.

Riyadh and its supporters have already severed air, sea and ground links with Qatar, cutting off vital routes for imports including food.

Concerns about stability

The foreign ministers of the axis countries were meanwhile preparing to travel to Cairo for a meeting on Wednesday – one day beyond the extension of the deadline.

Donald Trump, the US president, meanwhile said he had spoken to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar in phone calls on Sunday.

The White House said Trump “reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology. The president also underscored that unity in the region is critical to … defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability.”

The crisis has raised concerns of growing instability in the region, home to some of the world’s largest energy producers and several key Western allies hosting US military facilities.

The imposed restrictions have caused turmoil in Qatar, an oil- and gas-rich nation dependent on imports to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million, the BBC said. As a result, Iran and Turkey have been increasingly supplying it with food and other goods.

Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, who on Monday starts a tour of several Arab states, called for a “serious dialogue” to end the crisis.

“We are worried that the distrust and the disunity could weaken all the parties concerned as well as the entire peninsula,” said Gabriel, who will visit Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar.

It is unclear what further measures will be taken if Qatar fails to meet the demands, but the UAE ambassador to Russia Omar Ghobash warned last week that further sanctions could be imposed.