Arab countries extend Qatar deadline by 48 hours

Aljazeera tv studio: Saudi Arabia, others want it to stop broadcasting

Four Arab countries have agreed to give Qatar 48 more hours, in a deadline extension proposed by Kuwait, for the Gulf emirate to comply with a list of demands, local media reported early Monday.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt agreed to extend the deadline after Kuwait’s government urged them to do so late Sunday, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

Earlier, as the original deadline expired, Saudi-owned television Al Arabiya reported that Qatar could be hit by further sanctions from the countries that have cut ties with the Gulf emirate over its alleged support for terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt were “studying” a list of potential political and economic sanctions against Qatar after it rejected the list of demands, Al Arabiya said.

The Dubai-based broadcaster said that one possible punishment would be suspending Qatar from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a U.S.-allied bloc.

The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

Potential trade penalties against Qatar could be extended to include countries and companies dealing with the energy-rich emirate, Al Arabiya added without elaborating.

The foreign ministers of Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss “future steps” in dealing with Qatar, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said late Sunday.

On Friday, Qatar disclosed a list of 13 demands issued by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

The demands were conveyed by Kuwait which is acting as a mediator in an attempt to defuse the ongoing dispute.

The demands include downgrading ties with Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia; stopping support for Islamist groups; and shutting down the Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera and its channels.

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Thani is due to deliver his country’s official reply on the demands to Kuwait’s Emir Sabah Al Ahmed on Monday, according to Al Arabiya.

There was no immediate confirmation from either Qatar or Kuwait.

Mohammed had earlier said the demands violated his country’s sovereignty, but called for dialogue.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, who initially claimed credit for sparking the rift between the Gulf nations, spoke separately with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Al-Saud, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Hamad and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Al-Nahyan.

The president “underscored that unity in the region is critical … to defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability,” the White House said in a statement.

“President Trump, nevertheless, believes that the overriding objective of his initiative is the cessation of funding for terrorism,” it continued.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and transportation links with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism, a charge that Doha denies.

Later, the four countries placed on terrorism lists 59 figures and 12 groups with alleged links to Qatar.

Doha has called the boycott a “siege” and “collective punishment.”

In 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, accusing it of breaching a regional security pact.

That dispute was resolved through Kuwait’s mediation.(dpa/NAN)