Qatar Stock Exchange Drops as Arab Deadline Nears

DOHA, Qatar (AP) -
The Corniche Bay of Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)

Qatar’s stock exchange dropped Sunday following an extended holiday closure as the tiny Gulf nation faced a deadline to accept demands from four Arab countries in part over what they allege is its support for extremist groups.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut off ties with 2022 World Cup host Qatar in early June, restricting access to their airspace and ports and sealing Qatar’s only land border, which it shares with Saudi Arabia. They issued a 13-point list of demands to end the standoff June 22 and gave the natural gas-rich country 10 days to comply.

Qatar’s main QE stock index lost more than 3 percent when it reopened for the first time since the demands were issued because of the Eid al-Fitr holiday break. It eventually recovered some of its losses later in the trading session to close down 2.3 percent at 8,822.15.

The deadline is expected to expire at some point Sunday, though the countries involved have not provided a precise time or detailed what immediate penalties, if any, Qatar will face. Qatar has repeatedly denied charges it supports extremism and says the demands are an affront to its sovereignty.

Its foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, showed no signs of giving in during a press briefing in Rome on Saturday, saying that they were never meant to be accepted and that his country “is prepared to face whatever consequences.” Qatar’s government offered no additional comment Sunday.

While in Rome, Al Thani met with Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, who gave his backing to ongoing mediation efforts led by Kuwait. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also tried to resolve the dispute, with the U.S. last week urging Saudi Arabia and its allies to stay “open to negotiation” with Qatar.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has separately spoken with the leaders of Qatar and Bahrain, urging direct dialogue among all the states involved, according to statements released by the Kremlin on Saturday.