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Arab neighbours say 'nothing to negotiate' with Qatar after cutting ties

A top Emirati diplomat has said "there's nothing to negotiate" with Qatar over a growing diplomatic dispute about the energy-rich nation's alleged funding of terror groups, signalling Arab countries trying to isolate it will not back down.

Speaking in a rare interview, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Qatar has "chosen to ride the tiger of extremism and terrorism" and now needs to pay the price.

He said Qatar "absolutely" should expel members of Hamas, stop its support of terror groups "with al-Qaida DNA" around the world, and rein in the many media outlets it funds, chief among them the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera.

While applauding a Kuwaiti effort to mediate the crisis, Mr Gargash said Emirati and Saudi officials plan to concede nothing to Qatar, an international air travel hub now cut off from some of the skies around it and blocked from receiving the trucks full of food it relies on to feed its citizens.

Their "fingerprints are all over the place" in terror funding, he said.

"Enough is enough."

Qatar has long denied funding extremists, and its foreign minister has struck a defiant tone in interviews, even after worried residents emptied grocery shops in the capital Doha fearing food shortages.

Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were among those who joined Saudi Arabia on Monday in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The Arab countries have blocked Qatari vessels from entering their airspace, as well as using their seaports, and Saudi Arabia has closed off its land border.

While its flag carrier Qatar Airways now flies increasingly over Iran and Turkey, the airline has been blocked from landing elsewhere in the Middle East. Al-Jazeera offices also have been shut down by authorities in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Speaking from a Foreign Ministry office in Dubai, Mr Gargash listed a number of terror groups he alleged Qatar had funded, including al-Qaida's branches in Syria and Somalia, militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and other groups with "al-Qaida-type organisations" in Libya.

He offered no documents to support his claim, but Western officials have long accused Qatar's government of allowing or even encouraging funding of Sunni extremists.

Mr Gargash particularly pointed out the tens of millions of pounds paid to Shiite militias and others to free dozens of Qatari ruling family members and others in Iraq after 16 months in captivity.

Asked for specifics about what Arab nations want from Qatar, Mr Gargash said expelling members of Hamas and other groups from Qatar is important.

Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers, a major recipient of Qatari aid, have called Saudi Arabia's call for Qatar to cut ties with the Palestinian militant group "regrettable" and said it contradicts traditional Arab support for the Palestinian cause.

In Germany, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also said he wants to see a response from the Arab countries' demands "soon".

Both Mr al-Jubeir and Mr Gargash in their comments suggested their complaints about Qatar go back years, likely implying their criticism is focused on Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Sheikh Hamad took over as Qatar's emir in 1995 and expanded his nation's presence on the international scene through negotiating hostage releases, briefly flirting with diplomatic ties to Israel, hosting a Taliban office and creating Al-Jazeera.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, his son, became Qatar's ruling emir in 2013, but Sheikh Hamad still looms large in the tight, insular world of Qatari ruling family politics.

Qatar faced a similar crisis in 2014 that saw Arab countries pull their ambassadors from the country. That crisis ended eight months later, but the roots of it are clearly seen in the latest dispute.

An outspoken Emirati ruling family member has even raised the prospect of Qatar's leadership changing amid the growing crisis.

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi said: ''Qataris are questioning whether this is going to end up in seeing a change in leadership itself in Qatar,'' he said. ''So it is a very serious issue. Again, this is Qataris speaking to international media wondering whether this is possible at all.

''Doha now is completely isolated. Doha now needs to take serious steps very rapidly to placate not only their neighbours but also their allies around the world.''

AP

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