Toronto - The statements of Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, were shared throughout the region on Thursday evening, as tensions among the Gulf states continued to rise.
Toronto – The statements of Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, were shared throughout the region on Thursday evening, as tensions among the Gulf states continued to rise.
A statement released by the minister acknowledged the crisis threatening the region’s stability but asserted that “no one has the right to intervene in our foreign policy.”
Regarding the independence of Qatari foreign policy, he said “we are not ready to surrender, and will never be ready to surrender,” adding that the hostility Qatar is currently facing is unprecedented.
Trump Weighs In
US President Donald Trump called the United Arab Emirate’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan four days after the crisis began to discuss recent events. During the call, both men reiterated the importance of acting upon the agreements signed in Riyadh that concerned the fight against terror and the funding of terrorist groups. The two men also stressed the importance of maintaining a strong Gulf Cooperation Council in the region, for the sake of regional security and stability.
In an early morning press briefing aboard Air Force One, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the media “we are continuing to talk with multiple members in the region. We’ll continue to do that and monitor it.”
What Military Alert?
Just over an hour after Sanders spoke to reporters, Qatar denied accusations it had placed its military on high alert along its southern border with Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Defense was forced to issue a statement to Al Jazeera saying, “The Ministry of Defense is always on alert to protect the borders of the state of Qatar from a 360-degree approach- land, sea and air- 24 hours a day, every day of the year.”
Countries Are Offering to Mediate
Both Sudan and France have stepped forward with offers to mediate the dispute.
Sudanese Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, expressed his confidence that the region will resolve the situation, given the long history of “strong relations and blood ties” that exist there. The minister also stated that Sudan will not take sides in the matter.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani twice within one day, telling him that all sides must resolve the conflict through diplomatic channels.
Macron also called Saudi King Salman and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, inviting all parties to “pursue dialogue,” and offering to personally mediate the process.
After the UAE suspended postal service to and from Qatar on Thursday morning and blocked access to the Qatar Airways website, Pakistan voiced its intention to honor its trade agreement with Qatar on the importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG), citing the absence of an United Nations sanctions.
For some time, the Qatari stock market even showed strength, regaining 2.5 percent of the 9.7 percent loss it had suffered since the crisis began on Monday morning.
The dispute is however causing major trade concerns for Qatar, especially regarding the transportation of LNG. Shipping lanes have closed on Qatar, forcing tankers to turn back to their point of origin, and any Qatari vessel entering the UAE has been banned.
Mina Al Ahmadi, a tanker headed for the Kuwaiti port, was forced to divert to the port of Jebel Ali in Dubai. Two other Qatari tankers were turned back in the Gulf of Aden, on their way to the UK. The location of one of the vessels is currently unknown while the other is presumed to have returned to its point of origin.
Qatar Registers “Shock and Surprise”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Qatar’s ambassador to the US, Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, revealed the country’s “shock and surprise” over the dispute, adding that he hopes for a timely and diplomatic resolution to the situation.
The ambassador admitted that even though the rift was deepening by the day, his country had faith in the Emir or Kuwait to intervene quickly on behalf of peace and continued regional stability.
When asked if a quick solution was possible, the ambassador said “until now, after this act of aggression to Qatar, we haven’t received any justifications or motives or details on why such aggression is happening in the first place. We all met in Riyadh, and nothing was raised there.”
Al Thani continued “Qatar took part in a very successful conference on countering terrorism. His Highness Sheikh Tamim attended this conference and signed on to establish a center to combat financial terrorism, so we don’t understand where this is coming from.”
Qatar And The US Are Solid
Al Thani calmly declared that relations between Qatar and the US have remained “very solid.”
“I think the cooperation with the United States is long-standing, and speaks for itself. There is good cooperation with institutions here in Washington.”
Al Thani noted that rather than supporting terrorist groups, “the role of Qatar is crucial for the fight against terrorism.”
It is expected a country in a position like Qatar’s current situation would evaluate its negotiation leverage. When Al Jazeera brought this up with Al Thani, he said: “Our leverage is that we are open and we are not afraid to say that if there is something wrong, we will fix it. However, no one came to us and said there is something wrong.”
“Fabrications Started in Washington”
The Qatari ambassador denied outright the claims in a Financial Times report, which alleged that a ransom was paid to recover a hunting party abducted in Iraq and that “US$700m goes to Iran and Shia militias, and US$300m goes to Al Qaeda-linked groups.”
“That is not true. The efforts were [made] by the Qatari government in coordination with the Iraqi government. No ransom went to militias. Again, all of this is based on fabrications.”
“We have to take into consideration the evolution of these fabrications. There was a campaign, starting in Washington, DC, against the State of Qatar.”
Al Thani confirmed Qatar’s stance that there was a smear campaign originating from an external source for reasons unknown: “I really don’t know who is driving this campaign, but there is no doubt that there is a campaign against Qatar. Not only in Washington, DC, but in our region as well after the cyber-attack on the Qatar News Agency (QNA). I don’t know who is behind this, but for sure [there is, following] recent events in Washington, DC, and the hacking of the emails of the ambassador of the UAE.”
Is There Room for Compromise?
When asked about the possibility of reaching a compromise, Al Thani indicated that it would be difficult given Qatar has received no requests to discuss the situation.
“Again, there have been no requests yet. I would like to talk about, as you mentioned, our relations with Iran. Our relations with Iran are in line with the GCC. There is nothing out of the ordinary with Iran. It is a neighboring country. In terms of the Muslim Brotherhood, the state of Qatar has reiterated many times that there is no support to them. Unfortunately, certain parties don’t want to believe that.”
Responding to rumors that Saudi Arabia’s real agenda was to replace Qatar’s entire royal family, the ambassador stated that “the royal family of Qatar has a very solid relationship with the people of Qatar, and that’s what matters. Other than that, Qatar is open to discuss any issues that our brothers in the GCC feel.”
Stating Qatar’s openness to sit down with a mediator, Al Thani concluded, “we can shift to any position if we believe that this is the wrong position and if the parties sit with us and convince us that we are wrong.”