Qatar sanctions likely to become permanent: UAE

Turkish troops seen at their military base in Doha, Qatar June 23, 2017. (Qatar News Agency/Handout via Reuters)
Updated 29 June 2017
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Qatar sanctions likely to become permanent: UAE

JEDDAH: Sanctions imposed on Qatar this month are looking increasingly likely to become permanent as the deadline to meet a set of demands laid out by its Gulf neighbors fast approaches, according to the BBC.
The small peninsular nation has been told it must stop funding terrorism — which it denies — downgrade ties with Iran, and shutdown its news organization Al Jazeera, or face permanent isolation.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, have given Doha until Monday, July 3, to comply with their demands, but so far it has shown no signs of backing down.
UAE Ambassador to Moscow, Omar Ghobash, conceded that Qatar was not responding “positively” to the demands.
And he explained: “I think the whole idea would be to ultimately, simply disengage from Qatar.”
But asked if this included expulsion from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), he replied: “not immediately,” but added it was under discussion.
Ghobash said he did not believe there was risk that the situation could escalate into a military conflict, or at least: “Not from our side.”
“These are relatives and friends. They have a leadership that’s decided to undermine us. We’ll cut all our ties with Qatar, economic, political and even social as a result of the flight bans.”
He explained that once the deadline past, the four Arab states would “no longer be interested in bringing Qatar back into the Gulf and the Arab fold.”
Ghobash admitted that permanent sanctions would present risks — not least, pushing Qatar further toward Iran.
But he added: “Unfortunately Qatar has been in the arms of Iran and many Sunni extremist groups for a long time… So the idea of it falling into Iran’s lap is something we accept [as a risk] but at least it will provide clarity to the region and we’ll know who our friends and enemies are.”
Turkey, which maintains a military presence in Qatar, recently airlifted in armored vehicles, and it also suggested it might deploy more troops, prompting Bahrain to accuse Qatar of “military escalation.”
Ghobash denies the current situation is mere spat between royals, adding that such a claim was a “a complete misrepresentation of the situation.”
Instead he said: This is a serious conflict and a turning point in our societies… This is a principled stand that we are taking against very powerful negative narratives of Islam being funded by countries like Qatar.”


UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

Kurd demonstrators stage a protest rally in Syria’s western Afrin region bordering Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 32 sec ago
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UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

  • Egeland: Russia, Turkey ‘still working out deal on demilitarized buffer zone’
  • Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists

The deal to avoid a Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN said on Thursday, stressing that the threat to civilians remained high.

“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the UN Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, said in Geneva.

Syrian regime ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its 3 million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces.

While briefing the task force about the pact on Thursday, Russian and Turkish envoys made clear they “are still working... on the details,” Egeland said.

He expressed hope it was an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists.

“I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland said. 

“We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”

The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Despite the ongoing concerns, Egeland said he was “relieved” for now.

“The outcome here was the least bad of (the) realistic solutions,” he said.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has welcomed the Russian-Turkey agreement agreement signed in Sochi, calling it a “step on the road to making a political solution possible.”

Hassan Nasrallah said his group may reduce the number of its fighters in Syria because of an easing of the conflict, particularly after the recent agreement.  

It “will take Syria in the next weeks and months to a new phase,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech to supporters. 

He said the deal’s success will depend whether it’s properly implemented. “We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said.

“We will stay until further notice,” he stressed.

On Thursday, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had acquired “precision missiles” despite extensive efforts by Israel to prevent the movement developing this capability.

“It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Nasrallah said in a televised address.

“Attempts in Syria to block the way toward this (missile) capability” have failed, Nasrallah said.

“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected.”

Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.