A QUARTET of Arab nations have received Qatar’s response to their demands for ending a diplomatic crisis gripping the Persian Gulf, just before a planned meeting in Cairo.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said in a joint statement they would respond “in a timely manner”.

The countries did not elaborate on what steps they could take, though a major credit rating agency warned it had changed Qatar’s economic outlook to negative over the turmoil.

The four Arab nations — followed by a handful of other Muslim countries — abruptly cut off ties to the Fifa 2022 World Cup Host on June 5 over Doha’s alleged funding of organisations considered terror groups by its neighbours and warm relations with Iran.

Qatar denies supporting extremists and has defended its warm relations with Iran.

The two countries share a massive undersea natural gas field.

The four nations issued a 13-point list of demands on June 22, giving Qatar 10 days to comply. They later extended the deadline by another 48 hours at the request of Kuwait, which has acted as a mediator to resolve the crisis.

That deadline expired early yesterday morning.

Later yesterday, foreign ministers from the four Arab countries met in Cairo to discuss their next move.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency reported intelligence agency chiefs from those countries had met in Cairo, probably discussing the crisis.

What Qatar said in response to the demands remains unclear. It has called the demands, which include shutting down its Al-Jazeera satellite news network, expelling Turkish military forces based in the country and paying restitution, an affront to its sovereignty. The crisis has become a global concern as neither side appears to be backing down. Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, hosts around 10,000 American troops at its sprawling al-Udeid Air Base.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has been trying to ease tensions, while President Donald Trump’s comments on Qatar funding extremist groups back the Saudi-led countries’ position.

The nations could impose financial sanctions or force Qatar out of the Gulf Co-operation Council, a regional body known as the GCC that serves as a counterbalance to Iran.

Some Arab media outlets have suggested a military confrontation or a change of leadership in Qatar could be in the offing, but officials have said those options are not on the table.

German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said: “We now have this opportunity to reach good results for the benefit of the whole region.”

Emirati foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan kept up the pressure on Qatar, saying: “To defeat terrorism, we must confront extremism, we must confront hate speech, we must confront the harbouring and sheltering of extremists and terrorists, and funding them.

“Unfortunately, we in this region see that our sister nation of Qatar has allowed and harboured and encouraged all of this.”

He added: “Enough is enough.”

Qatar’s foreign minister meanwhile criticised the four Arab nations for trying to isolate his country “under the banner of fighting terrorism”.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said: “When measures clothed in this context, it is because they think they will be met with international sympathy because they are ‘anti-terrorism’ measures.”

The credit ratings agency Moody’s warned yesterday that it had set Qatar’s economic outlook to negative over the crisis.

It said this was mostly due to the ongoing diplomatic debate overtaking the country.

It said the “the likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased and a quick resolution of the dispute is unlikely over the next few months” and that the chaos “carries the risk that Qatar’s sovereign credit fundamentals could be negatively affected.”

Moody’s added: “Public exchanges between the various parties in recent weeks and previous periods of heightened tensions between Qatar and other GCC countries suggest that a quick resolution is unlikely and that the stalemate may continue for some time.”

The agency said that Qatar’s exports of natural gas are not under threat at the moment. Those exports make the small country’s citizens have the biggest per capita incomes in the world.