Arab states open to dialogue with Qatar if demands are met

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Four Arab states that cut ties with Qatar met Sunday to discuss the diplomatic crisis, insisting on compliance with a list of sweeping demands while refraining for now from imposing more punitive measures against the Gulf state.

It was the second meeting for the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain since the countries cut diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar on June 5.

The quartet accuses Qatar of supporting extremists and interfering in the affairs of other Arab states. Qatar denies the charges and sees them as politically motivated.

After their meeting in Bahrain's capital, Manama, the four foreign ministers held a joint press conference, saying the bloc will continue to keep current measures against Qatar in place, but are open to dialogue with the Gulf state if it shows a willingness to change course and complies with their demands.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister read a statement by the ministers that said the bloc was still insistent that Qatar comply with a list of 13 demands the countries had previously issued.

"The four countries are ready for dialogue with Qatar on condition it announces its sincere desire to stop supporting and funding terrorism... and implements the 13 demands that ensure peace and stability in the region and world," said Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa.

The list includes demands that Qatar stop terrorism financing, but also that it shut down its flagship Al Jazeera news network, which the quartet say has been used by Qatar to promote its policies. Other demands include closing a Turkish military base in Qatar, limiting ties with Iran, expelling Islamist political opposition figures and paying restitution for victims of terrorism allegedly linked to Qatar.

Qatar rejects the list as an affront to its sovereignty, but has vowed to combat terrorism financing and in recent weeks issued a decree revising the country's counterterrorism laws.

At issue is Qatar's support for opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt deem a threat to their ruling systems and have labeled a terrorist organization.

The four ministers had met previously in Cairo in early July to discuss Qatar's response to the list, which was not made public but which they described at the time as "negative". In the weeks since that meeting, the bloc appears to have reined back some of those demands, urging Qatar to commit to six principles on combatting extremism and terrorism and to negotiate a plan with specific measures to implement.

The dispute has prompted a flurry of international visits and meetings to try and resolve the crisis.

The Gulf states are key U.S. allies. Qatar hosts al-Udeid Air Base, the hub for U.S.-led operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, while American surveillance planes and other aircraft fly from the UAE.

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