Arab states urged to lift blockade after Qatar tweaks terror laws
Arab states have been urged to lift a blockade on Qatar after the country changed its anti-terror laws amid a regional crisis.
The ruler of the gas-rich Gulf state announced new counter-extremist measures on Thursday, as Qatar deals with charges it is funding terror groups.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani amended 2004 legislation to set rules for defining terrorism, freezing financing and establishing national terrorism lists.
The move appears to be a response to the tiny country being frozen out by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain.
In a dramatic move last month, which appeared to be backed by US President Donald Trump, the quartet cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar and halted all land, air and sea traffic to the country, sparking fears of food shortages in Doha.
They accused Qatar of supporting extremists and later issued a 13-point list of demands the country must comply with, including curbing cooperation with Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran.
Dozens of people with alleged links to Qatar have also been designated as terrorists by the four countries, including the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group.
Doha has previously branded the list politically motivated amid its denial of the countries’ allegations, while also labelling the list of demands unrealistic.
The UAE welcomed Qatar’s changes to anti-terror laws on Friday, with foreign minister Anwar Gargash posting on Twitter: “The Qatari decree to amend the anti-terrorism law is a positive step to deal seriously with the 59 terrorists.
“The pressure of the crisis has started to bear fruits, and the wiser course would be changing the whole orientation.”
Qatar last week signed an agreement with the US on working together to fight terror financing, with the terms believed to allow US officials to be posted to the country’s law offices.
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, called for sanctions to be lifted on Qatar in the wake of the country’s recent efforts.
He said: “They have been very aggressive in implementing that agreement, so I think we’re satisfied with the effort they’re putting forth.
“I hope the four countries will consider as a sign of good faith lifting this land blockade which is really having the most, I think negative effects on the Qatari people.”
Turkey, a staunch ally of Qatar during the crisis, also vowed to step in as part of a bid to solve the dispute.
Ahead of a visit to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, the country’s president Tayyip Erdogan promised to do his best to ease the problems between the “brothers of the Gulf region”.
The demands of Qatar from its neighbours included ending Turkey’s military presence in the country.