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Demand for Al Jazeera Closure Dropped by Arab Nations That Cut Ties With Qatar

ROME – Demands that Al Jazeera be shuttered have been dropped by the four Arab nations engaged in a deep diplomatic dispute with Qatar, the home base of the pan-Arabic news network.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, which broke off diplomatic ties with Qatar in early June, said Wednesday that they had revised the initial list of 13 demands they presented to Qatar in order to mend the rift. Among the dropped demands is the one concerning the closure of Al Jazeera, the most-watched news outlet in the Arab world, the Associated Press reported.

The four Arab nations had cut ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting Islamic terrorists and Iran. Qatar denies the allegations and has resisted its neighbors’ demands.

Speaking Wednesday at a news conference in New York, diplomats from the four countries urged Qatar to commit to six principles on fighting extremism and terrorism but refrained from mentioning any specific measures in what is widely considered a much softer stance and a diplomatic overture aimed at solving the standoff.

U.S. President Donald Trump has sided with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the dispute, but Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has reportedly been trying to mend fences.

“Al Jazeera Media Network rejects any external intervention pertaining to its  journalistic mission, or any other demand, and reiterates its independence and professional editorial stance,” the broadcaster said on Wednesday in a statement commenting the dropped demand.

“It’s clear that recent attempts by governments in the region and elsewhere to throttle the independence of the media are being met by condemnation by all leading international media institutions, with an urgent demand for an end to interference, intimidation, and threats,” the statement went on to note.

“Our obligation is to our loyal global audience and we assure to them, that we will continue to serve them with integrity and impartiality and  refuse to take orders from governments or anyone else pertaining to our editorial independence and the Network’s operation,” it said.

The diplomatic dispute in June caused Saudi Arabia to immediately shut down Al Jazeera’s bureau in Riyadh, revoking its broadcasting licence.

The Qatar-based satellite news network was subsequently banned in several neighboring countries, including the UAE, which also blacked out the sports channels of Al Jazeera’s closely affiliated beIN Media Group. This resulted in sports fans in the UAE being deprived of most premium content including soccer, NBA basketball and Formula One races.

It remains to be seen whether Al Jazeera and beIN will go back on air in the countries where their services have been pulled.

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