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Tillerson Says Qatar Is Reviewing Demands By Neighbors


Turkish troops at their military base in Doha

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Qatar is reviewing demands by neighboring nations to end a diplomatic dispute that erupted earlier this month.

"Qatar has begun its careful review and consideration of a series of requests presented by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and U.A.E," Tillerson said in a statement issued on June 25.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain on June 22 set out a list of 13 demands to Qatar through mediator Kuwait, including one to close down the Al-Jazeera broadcaster, and it gave Doha 10 days to accept the demands.

"While some of the elements will be very difficult for Qatar to meet, there are significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution,” Tillerson said in his statement.

Tillerson added that Qatar and the four Arab states should sit down together in order to reach a resolution.

"A lowering of rhetoric would also help ease the tension," Tillerson said, adding that the United States will remain in close contact with all the countries involved.

Qatar is home to the Al-Udeid forward base for U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations not only in Syria but also Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 10,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed there.

Meanwhile, a top U.A.E. official said monitors from the United States and the European Union would be needed to “guarantee” any potential agreement aimed at ending the dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors.

The crisis erupted on June 5 when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, and others broke ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing extremism, a claim Doha denies.

Anwar Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, on June 24 said the dispute could be resolved "through diplomacy if Qatar renounces its support for extremism and terrorism."

"If Qatar follows the path of wisdom...we would need a system of guarantees and controls" in order to implement an accord with Doha, he said, adding the need for "European and American guarantees."

"We don't want European mediation, and I don't think the Europeans want to be mediators. Their role should be to put pressure on Qatar," said Gargash.

Earlier, Gargash called on Western nations including the United States, France, Germany, and Britain to help monitor any agreement reached with Doha.

"They have the diplomatic clout and technical know-how," Gargash said.

Qatar on June 24 called the demands "unreasonable."

"This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning: The illegal blockade has nothing to do with combatting terrorism. It is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty and outsourcing our foreign policy," said Sheikh Saif al-Thani, director of Qatar's government communications office.

Thani said the demands are not "reasonable and actionable" -- two criteria laid down by the U.S. State Department this week in an attempt to mediate the dispute.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergodan said on June 25 that calls for a Turkish military base in Qatar to close were disrespectful. He said he had offered to set up a military base in Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar but that Riyadh had not responded.

"Even though they still didn't come back to us on this, asking Turkey to pull back its troops [from Qatar] is disrespectful against Turkey," he said.

Gargash denied his country and its allies want "regime change" in Qatar, but a "behavioral change."

"The alternative is not escalation. The alternative is parting of ways," he said. "It's very difficult for us to maintain a collective grouping with one of the partners...actively promoting what is an extremist and terrorist agenda."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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