Time is running out for the defiant leaders in the Gulf state of Qatar who face an ultimatum dictating compliance with a list of demands to address their grievances over the state’s alleged support of terrorism.
The deadline for compliance was shifted from Sunday to midnight in the Gulf region on July 4.
The demands include closing state-run TV station al-Jazeera, to reduce ties with Iran and kicking a contingent of Turkish troops out of a base in Qatar.
Qatar and commentators in the region say the demands are so draconian that they were issued knowing the Qatari government could never comply.
The ultimatum was drafted by the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain.
The remaining Gulf State, Kuwait has stayed neutral and acted as a broker to mediate the upset.
Egypt has joined the Gulf State blockade of Qatar by imposing sanctions.
The trigger for the sanctions was a TV broadcast by Qatar’s leader that allegedly praised terror group Hamas and celebrated strong links with Iran.
The blockade includes a travel ban by road, air and sea that has isolated the tiny nation of Qatar and cut-off a lifeline of food deliveries. Qatar imports around 80% of the country’s food from Saudi Arabia.
No Qatari flights can overfly the Gulf states and no flights are allowed to land that have originated in Qatar.
Although the blockading countries have not hinted at what action they will take if Qatar ignores the ultimatum, the governments are expected to extend sanctions at talks in Egypt after the deadline expires.
US President Donald Trump, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel have all spoken to politicians on both sides of the divide and called for a peaceful resolution of the row and a broader agreement in the region not to fund terrorism.
America has a split role in the dispute – both demanding Qatar stops funding radicals and working to secure the USA’s largest Middle east base near the Qatari capital of Doha.
The base houses 10,000 troops and is a command centre for drone and jet strikes in the region.