The United Arab Emirates welcomed Qatar’s move to amend its counterterrorism laws as a “positive step” toward addressing some of the demands at the heart of a spat that has divided the Gulf for nearly two months, reports Bloomberg.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash used Twitter to introduce a rare optimistic note since a Saudi Arabia-led bloc isolated Qatar in early June, after accusing it of funding extremism and being too close to chief Saudi regional rival Iran.
The Qatari move is a “positive step in dealing seriously” with a list of 59 individuals with links to Qatar who were sanctioned by the Saudi alliance, Gargash tweeted.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson voiced optimism as well, telling reporters in Washington Friday that the U.S. is “satisfied with the effort” Qatar is making and urging its neighbors “to consider as a sign of good faith lifting this land blockade.”
Qatar issued a decree on Thursday amending anti-terrorism legislation, including new definitions for terrorists and their entities, as well as what constitutes terrorism activity and funding, according to the state-run QNA news agency. Lists of individuals and organizations linked to terrorism would be drawn up. Work on the decree began early this year and the changes were effective immediately, the government said in a statement.
The allies — Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt — cut diplomatic and commercial ties with the emirate on June 5. After presenting 13 demands that Qatar rejected, which included ending Turkey’s military presence, scaling back ties with Iran and severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, the bloc now says Doha must agree to six broad principles including combating terrorism, and denying financing and shelter to terrorist groups — elements that were part of accords that resolved previous standoffs.
Qatar and its neighbors signed two agreements in 2013 and 2014 to end a diplomatic crisis that centered on Qatar’s support of the Brotherhood.
Mediation efforts are yet to provide a major public breakthrough. The U.S. and the U.K. proposed a road map to help resolve the conflict during Tillerson’s trip to the region last week, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — an important ally of Qatar — is due to travel to the Gulf from Sunday for meetings with leaders.
Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy, during which the U.S. and Qatar signed an anti-terrorism pact, did help allay investor concerns that the Saudi alliance was about to impose harsher sanctions on Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
The crisis has opened a political divide in the Middle East, one which may have a lasting impact on the oil-rich region, and the U.S. has warned it could hurt its efforts to fight Islamic State. Saudi Arabia has strong counterterrorism ties with the U.S. and is a top customer for American weapons. Qatar hosts the regional headquarters for U.S. Central Command, which includes a state-of-the-art air base the Pentagon depends on to target Islamic State