The Doha government has said a list of 13 demands issued by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states impinges on its sovereignty. The emirate finds itself increasingly isolated after being accused of funding terrorism.
After its neighbors ordered Qatar to break off diplomatic ties with key ally Iran and close the Al Jazeera TV channel, the Qatari government on Saturday denounced the demands as unreasonable.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt issued the 13-point ultimatum Thursday through the mediator Kuwait to end a diplomatic and trade "blockade" of the Gulf emirate that is about to enter its fourth week.
In response, the Doha government said that the demands laid bare the four nations' real objectives, and that the terror funding allegations leveled at the country were a smokescreen.
"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, and outsourcing our foreign policy," Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, head of Qatar's government communications office, said in a statement.
Key ally Turkey has sent food aid to Qatar in the wake of the diplomatic crisis and has offered to mediate a solution
Al-Thani added that the ultimatum, which the tiny Gulf emirate has been given 10 days to meet, failed to fulfill the "reasonable and actionable" criteria set out by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier this week and a similar British benchmark that the requirements of Qatar should be "measured and realistic."
Although the demands have not officially been made public, they have been widely leaked.
They include the severing of links with Iran, the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar, the halting of all forms of funding for terrorism and extremism, and the renunciation of ties with groups like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the "Islamic State" militant network, al-Qaida and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.
The Saudi-led ultimatum also calls for the closure of the Qatar-owned news broadcaster Al Jazeera, the payment of compensation to its neighbors and victims of terrorism, and for Qatar to politically "align itself with Gulf and Arab" states "at all levels."
Al Jazeera, whose editorial has for many years been critical of several Middle Eastern governments, on Saturday hit back at the closure demand, accusing Qatar's neighbors of attempting to "silence freedom of expression."
Saudi Arabia and nine other Muslim states had broken ties with Qatar on June 5, citing its support for terrorist groups and its close relations with Iran, which they accuse of destabilizing the region.
Its neighbors have restricted air, sea and land links to the tiny emirate and levied trade bans, which have plunged the country into crisis.
UAE reaffirms position
On Saturday, the UAE reminded Qatar it faced long-term isolation if the demands were not met. But the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, denied that his country and others were seeking "regime change"; they just wanted "a change in behavior."
mm/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)