The four Arab countries leading an embargo against Qatar are ready to talk but not to back down from their demands, the quartet’s foreign ministers said in a joint press conference Sunday in Manama, Bahrain.
“Dialogue doesn’t mean there are concessions,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said.
The four countries also rejected charges about Saudi Arabia’s handling of Qatari travel for Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is scheduled to start August 30 this year.
All 13 demands remain
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have been enforcing an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar since June 5, saying the Gulf country supports terrorism.
The quartet issued 13 demands that included shutting down Qatar’s al Jazeera TV network and severing ties with Iran.
Qatar denies the charges and calls the demands a breach of its sovereignty.
The quartet Sunday said negotiations are possible if Qatar shows “real intention” to stop supporting terrorism and interfering in neighboring countries.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, said none of the demands were dropped.
“It has to be black or white,” Al-Jubeir said, saying Qatar either funds terrorism or it doesn’t.
Qatar alleges travel restrictions
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee said Saturday that Saudi Arabia is restricting Qatari access into the country for the rituals of Hajj and Umrah.
Qataris may enter Saudi Arabia through only two airports; and those living outside of Qatar must first return to Doha before entering Saudi territory, the committee said.
The Qatari committee also said similar “violations” occurred during Umrah in the month of Ramadan.
In defending Saudi Arabia, the quartet called the criticism “unacceptable.” The joint statement said Qatar was obstructing its own citizens from attending the pilgrimage.”
We reject what Qatar is doing in politicizing (the pilgrimage),” Al-Jubeir said. “The Qatari pilgrims are welcome.”
By Sarah El Sirgany and Jay Croft, CNN