MANAMA: Saudi Arabia considers Qatar’s demands for an internationalization of the Hajj pilgrimage a declaration of war against the Kingdom, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Sunday.
Speaking to Al Arabiya and Al Hadath TV channels at the end of Sunday’s meeting of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), Al-Jubeir said: “Qatar’s demands to internationalize the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom.”
He added: “We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalization of the holy sites.”
The ATQ — comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — has previously issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Al Jazeera channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with Gulf enemy Iran.
On Sunday, the foreign ministers of the four countries said they were ready for dialogue with Qatar if it showed willingness to tackle their demands.
In their joint statement, the ministers denounced the deliberate act of Qatari authorities to obstruct the performance of Hajj rituals by Qatari nationals.
They commended the facilities provided by the government of King Salman to all pilgrims.
According to Reuters, Al-Jubeir said Qatar was not serious in tackling the countries’ demands.
“We are ready to talk with Qatar on the implementation of the demands, on the implementation of the principles, if Qatar is serious, but it has been clear that it is not,” the minister told a joint news conference after the meeting.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa added: “The four countries are ready for dialogue with Qatar with the condition that it announces its sincere willingness to stop funding terrorism and extremism and its commitment to not interfere in other countries’ foreign affairs and respond to the 13 demands.”
The four countries added 18 more groups and individuals they say are linked to Qatar to their terrorist lists last week. They cut ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of backing militant groups.
The four ministers had met previously in Cairo in early July to discuss Qatar’s response to the list, which they described at the time as “negative.”
In the weeks since that meeting, the ATQ appears to have reined back some of those demands, urging Qatar to commit to six principles on combatting extremism and terrorism and to negotiate a plan with specific measures to implement.