Qatari FM to Meet US Secretary of State to Discuss Gulf

Washington – Only days after the blockade countries issued their list of demands to Qatar to end the Gulf crisis, Qatari foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on Tuesday in Washington.Qatar described the list of demands, which it received Thursday from the blockading countries, as unworkable. Citing Tillerson’s earlier urging that the demands be both “reasonable and actionable,” Qatar’s official response was to find them neither.Included in the demands were the complete shutdown of state-funded network, Al Jazeera, a significant scaling down of Qatar’s relationship with Iran and the closure of a Turkish military base in the country. The list of demands came weeks after three Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, announced they were severing all diplomatic ties with Qatar, alleging financial support for terrorist organizations and a relationship to Iran which they found too close for their comfort. The blockade followed this announcement almost immediately. The allegations have since been proven to be unfounded, prompting many to believe the reasons for the blockade to be more closely related to an intense dislike for Qatar’s foreign policy.Bahrain Changes its Opinion on Turkish PresenceMonday was a day for statements on the crisis, starting with Bahrain’s curiously timed reversal on the issue of Turkish increased military presence in Qatar. Originally, Bahrain regarded Turkish military personal in Qatar a non-issue. Now, however, the Bahraini foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, describes his country’s official opinion as markedly different:“The disagreement with Qatar is a political and security dispute and has never been about military… But the deployment of troops with their armored vehicles is a military escalation for which Qatar will bear the consequences.”Modest US DefianceRepublican US Senator, Bob Corker, vowed Monday night to withhold his consent regarding any US arms sales to GCC countries until the crisis in the Gulf has been resolved.Any sale of arms is mandated to go through a preliminary approval process before heading to full Congress for a 30-day review period. In his position as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Corker finds himself uniquely positioned to apply pressure for a resolution.In a letter to US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, with whom he shares a close relationship, Corker stated that “all countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS (ISIL) and counter Iran.”Iran Asks Europe to Step Up Pressure for ResolutionSpeaking in Berlin on Monday, Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, urged European countries to use their influence more effectively to intercede in the crisis to bring about a timely solution.Accusing the blockade countries of “punishing Qatar and Iran to deflect attention away from their governments’ handling of their own people,” Zarif said, “When foreign policy becomes a commodity, then purchasing military equipment becomes your yardstick for measuring who is a terrorist and who isn’t a terrorist.”As if to signal his agreement, Zarif’s German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, called the blockade’s list of demands against Qatar “very provocative.” Gabriel made the remark during a speech at an event presented by the European Council on Foreign Relations.Students in an UproarThe blockade, now in its third week, has affected all areas of Qatari life, including students from three of Qatar’s neighbours. Unable to complete their exams, the students have been refused their certificates and had their educational accounts closed. Their school registrations have also been revoked, prompting Qatar’s Human Rights Watch Committee to declare its official objection to the “serious threat” to students posed by the blockade.Al Jazeera Issues its Own ResponseIn an open letter published on Monday, Qatar-funded network Al Jazeera issued its own response to the list of blockade demands, which included the network’s closure.According to the statement, “The attempt to silence Al Jazeera is an attempt to silence independent journalism in the region, and to challenge everyone’s freedom to be heard and to be informed. This must not be allowed to happen”Espousing professional journalistic pride, the network affirmed its determination to carry out “our responsibility of providing reliable information, and giving those we cover a voice.”“We will continue to do our job with integrity. We will continue to be courageous in the pursuit of the truth. And we will continue to respect people’s rights to be heard,” it continued.

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