NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Senior diplomats from the four Arab countries that have broken ties with Qatar have indicated that they were no longer insisting on 13 precise demands that the Qataris must satisfy, or on a specific deadline for them to comply.
The remarks by the diplomats from Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday (July 18) seemed to indicate a slight easing in their position and a desire to make some progress in the bitter dispute, which began in early June.
No direct talks have been scheduled. Shuttle diplomacy undertaken by United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with the antagonists, all of them close allies of the US, ended last week in failure.
The diplomats told reporters that they remain frustrated over what all four view as Qatar's support for terrorism and instability in the Middle East, a central theme in the crisis that has created deep fissures between Qatar and its neighbors. Qatar has denied their accusations.
Speaking at a news conference convened by the United Arab Emirates at its mission to the United Nations, the diplomats said they wanted and expected to resolve the crisis amicably.
"Our aim is to reach a diplomatic solution," Saudi Arabia's United Nations ambassador, Abdullah bin Yahya Almouallimi, said of the feud with the Qataris, adding that he hoped "they will come around."
Almouallimi and his fellow diplomats said the four countries were no longer talking about specific demands Qatar must satisfy, including shuttering the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base, downgrading ties with Iran and outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood organisation and other groups they regard as fomenters of terrorism.
Those demands were among a list of 13 handed to Qatar after the crisis began, along with a 10-day deadline for Qatar to comply. Qatar leaked the list and ignored the deadline, which came and went.
Now, the diplomats said, the four countries have united around what they called six broad principles, built upon the themes of combating terrorism and extremism, denying financing and safe havens to terrorist groups, stopping incitement to hatred and violence and refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
The Saudi ambassador also said the imposition of any previous deadline had only been "meant to help move the process forward."
Asked if any compromise were possible, he said that "of course we can compromise - but no compromise on the six principles."
The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh, said that regardless what happens next, "we're never going back to the status quo - that needs to be understood by the Qataris." There was no immediate comment from Qatar's UN ambassador, Alya Ahmed Al Thani.
Nusseibeh was joined at the news conference by Reem al Hashimy, the United Arab Emirates minister of state for international cooperation, who said all four countries "are completely aligned" in their position regarding Qatar.
Asked if she believed a solution would be found, Hashimy responded, "As we say, 'inshallah (God willing).'"
Both Emirati diplomats categorically denied a Washington Post report on Sunday that their country had orchestrated the hacking of Qatari news and social media sites, planting false quotes in which the country's emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, was quoted as praising Iran and the Hamas militant group. The Post article was attributed to US intelligence officials.
Those false quotes, which appeared May 24 just after President Donald Trump's counterterrorism summit meeting with Arab nations in Saudi Arabia, were among the catalysts for the Qatar crisis, which led the Emiratis, Saudis, Egyptians and Bahrainis to ban Qatari news media. They then broke relations with Qatar and decreed a trade boycott.