Saudi FM says 'brother state' Qatar must act to end crisis

Posted June 10, 2017

Qatar received no notice from the other Arab countries before ties were cut, he said, calling it "a surprise and a shock to us, this act of aggression".

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said there would be more curbs if necessary, and that Qatar needed to make ironclad commitments to change what critics say is a policy on funding Islamist militants.

In an interview televised by the BBC on Tuesday, H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani wondered why the countries in question believed that Qatar was siding with Iran.

"With all due respect, this statement is full of contradictions because it is saying that we are supporting Iran and on the other hand supporting the extremist groups in Syria; and we are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in (Saudi Arabia) or in Yemen and we are supporting the (Iranian-backed) Houthis form the other side".

While applauding a Kuwaiti effort to mediate the crisis, Gargash said Emirati and Saudi officials planned to concede nothing to Qatar, an worldwide air travel hub now cut off from some of the skies around it and blocked from receiving the trucks full of food it relies on to feed its citizens.

The emir of Kuwait is trying to mediate the row, carrying out shuttle diplomacy between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE is threatening up to 15 years in jail and a fine of more than $130,000 for anyone who expresses sympathy for Qatar on social media, The Associated Press reports. "In all battlefields, there are adversaries", he told CNN.

Jordan also signaled a willingness to work with neighboring countries to help end the crisis, according to government spokesman Mohammad Al-Momani.

Anxious residents have responded to the crisis by emptying grocery stores in the Qatari capital, Doha, as Saudi Arabia has blocked trucks carrying food from entering the country across its only land border.

Reiterating comments by Gulf officials, Gargash told Reuters there was no plan to seek a change in Qatar's leadership, only a change in its policies. "Doha now needs to take serious steps very rapidly to placate not only their neighbors but also their allies around the world". The Arab states have also ordered Qataris out within 14 days. A top Emirati diplomat, meanwhile, said "there's nothing to negotiate" with Qatar.

Soccer's world governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association also has said it remains in regular contact with Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar is home to the largest US airbase in the Mideast.

Qatar is also home to the biggest American air base in the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council is viewed as one of the most influential in the Middle East.

Addressing reporters in Doha on Thursday, Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar had been isolated "because we are successful and progressive". He said normal life in Qatar is "not affected" by the blockage, insisting the tiny country maintains sufficient access to other air and sea routes to secure food for its people.

"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off".