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Arab nations drop demand to shut down Al Jazeera

Demands for Al Jazeera to be shut have been dropped by the four Arab nations engaged in a deep diplomatic rift with Qatar.

Qatar is the home base of the pan-Arabic broadcaster which is the most watched news outlet in the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, which broke diplomatic relations with Qatar in early June citing its alleged support for Islamic terrorists and Iran, said on Tuesday that they have revised the initial list of 13 demands they presented to Qatar in order to solve the diplomatic dispute.

Among Tuesday’s dropped demands is the one concerning the closure of Al-Jazeera, the Associated Press reported.

Qatar, which has denied the terrorism allegations, had dismissed the initial demands. Al Jazeera had vowed to “continue to cover the news and current affairs from the region and beyond in a balanced and objective manner.”

Speaking on Tuesday at a news conference convened by the United Arab Emirates at its United Nations mission 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.

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

There was no immediate comment from Al Jazeera which has held firm in the midst of the diplomatic storm.

The head of Al Jazeera English, Giles Trendle, speaking on Monday at an event at London’s Frontline Club, which champions independent journalism, said the network never remotely considered bowing down to any demands.

“Since day one, our journalists all around the world have been at their desks doing their jobs and out in the field reporting,” he said.

“Obviously it’s an unusual situation, but it’s business as normal … we’re just getting on with our jobs,” Al Jazeera reported on its website.

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 neighbouring countries, including the United Arab Emirates, 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 how the appeasement effort underway will play out for both Al Jazeera and beIN in terms of going back on air in the countries where their services have been pulled.

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