Tillerson: Saudi Demands are Difficult for Qatar to Meet

Doha skyline (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 06-26-2017 11:47:57

Last week, Saudi Arabia and the UAE delivered Qatar a list of 13 demands related to the ongoing shipping embargo and gave the small Gulf emirate 10 days to reply. The list calls on Qatar to close its satellite news network, Al Jazeera; close a Turkish military base; pay reparations for alleged damages; and to cut its ties with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement Sunday describing some elements of this list as "very difficult for Qatar to meet," but he added that there are still "significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution." Tillerson called on all parties to lower their rhetoric and to seek unity in the fight against terrorism. 

If Tillerson's remarks were an even-handed request for dialogue, statements from Qatar were less restrained. In public, Qatari officials have dismissed the list as unrealistic and disingenuous. "This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning – the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar's sovereignty," said Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, a Qatari spokesman, in a statement Friday. 

Qatar's regional allies appeared to agree. In a statement published by government-owned news outlet Anadolu, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that "we consider the 13-point list against international law." And in a readout of a conversation with Qatar's emir, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said that "pressure, threats and sanctions" will not help resolve the crisis, adding that the "siege of Qatar is not acceptable for us."

Analysts suggested Sunday that with neither side showing inclination to negotiate, the dispute will likely drag on for months. Qatar-flagged and -owned vessels remain banned from ports in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and Qatar's airline is banned from routing flights through Saudi airspace. To make up for these limitations, Doha has resorted to some creative re-routing: containers arriving from overseas are transshipped through Oman rather than through the UAE; fresh food arrives by air shipment from Iran, Turkey and India; and any difference in costs for consumers is made up for by state subsidies – at least for now.