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FILE PHOTO - An aerial view of Doha's diplomatic area March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad/File Photo
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The GCC surge against one of its member countries, Qatar continues as the crisis over its alleged support for terrorism turns into a protracted confrontation. In a meeting between the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates in Cairo, the Doha saga was discussed in detail.The club has criticized Qatar’s negative response to the 13 demands that were made of them. Qatar handed over the response to Kuwait on Monday.

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The Arab countries have said that the boycott will continue.In a joint statement, the foreign ministers said they “regret the negative response from Qatar”.Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Qatar’s response to the bloc’s conditions had “no substance” and “reflects a lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation”. The talks took place a month after the Riyadh-led alliance severed diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The ministers did not spell out as to what will Qatar face after its piecemeal response to the demands.However, the statements give a fair indication of the next steps that the countries intend to take.

The 13 demands dished out to Qatar relate to matters of their internal and foreign policy. Qatar has repeatedly denied all accusations and has reiterated their resolve to maintain their sovereignty.In a nutshell, Qatar has been ordained to curb diplomatic ties with Iran; end ties with all terrorist organizations; shut down Al Jazeera; expel Turkish military from its soil and fully align itself with fellow Gulf countries.Qatar has further been categorically told to cut ties with political opponents of regimes in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain.

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Punitive measures

The ministers did not spell out as to what will Qatar face after its piecemeal response to the demands.However, the statements give a fair indication of the next steps that the countries intend to take.“The boycott will remain,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said at the same news conference in the Egyptian capital. Jubeir said they would “take steps at the appropriate time”.The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, predicted more isolation for Qatar.“Next greater isolation, incremental measures & reputational damage stemming from Doha’s continued support for extremism & terrorism,” he tweeted.

There are fears of a wider embargo that would hurt the Qatari economy, with credit ratings agency Moody’s announcing it was changing Qatar’s outlook to negative over the crisis.

Doha stays firm

Qatar has shunned the demands put forward by the Arab countries.Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the list of demands “is unrealistic and is not actionable”, accusing the four countries of seeking to infringe on the nation’s sovereignty.

It has announced to increase LNG production by 30 percent, something which is likely to bring it much closer to Iran.One of the main bone of contentions has been Doha’s ties with Iran.

He came down hard at the “inhuman and illegal” blockade and said the Arab states were using a “double narrative” to hide their true intentions. He said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt had “carefully orchestrated an unprecedented smear campaign” to misrepresent Qatar’s policies to the world, telling an audience at London think-tank Chatham House: “The allegation that Qatar supports terrorism was clearly designed to generate anti-Qatar sentiment in the West.

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“This manipulation has already and will continue to obscure the real source of violent extremism,” he added. Qatar has shown perseverance in testing times and has vowed to safeguard its integrity and independence in handling its affairs.It has announced to increase LNG production by 30 percent, something which is likely to bring it much closer to Iran.One of the main bone of contentions has been Doha’s ties with Iran.

Despite ramped-up pressure on Qatar, it is urging for talks to resolve the diplomatic impasse.Qatar’s foreign minister reiterated that his country is open for talks. “We welcome any serious efforts to resolve our differences with our neighbors,” he said.

The Doha imbroglio has added to the even otherwise volatile Middle East situation. In order to avoid further conflagrations, it is imperative upon the quartet to show flexibility and negotiate on the table.

The minister accused Saudi Arabia and its regional allies of “demanding that we must surrender our sovereignty as the price for ending the siege”. Though Qatar wants to amicably end the crisis, it is not succumbing to pressure.vowed to stand firm amid adversity.Qatari Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said on Sunday: “Qatar is not an easy country to be swallowed by anyone.We are ready. We stand ready to defend our country.”

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The Doha imbroglio has added to the even otherwise volatile Middle East situation. In order to avoid further conflagrations, it is imperative upon the quartet to show flexibility and negotiate on the table.Another long-drawn tiff is the last thing that the Middle East needs.

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