Qatar – A victim of bullying
In a meeting with a group of journalists from The Washington Post, yesterday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani lamented what has been “a very long two months” for him and his colleagues. Since early June, four Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt — have imposed a diplomatic and trade blockade of Qatar, which they accuse of colluding with extremist groups and seeking to destabilize its neighbors. Qatar reject these allegations. The Foreign Minister, in his interview with The Washington Post yesterday, expressed eagerness for conciliation and dialogue. But he said Qatar as a victim of geopolitical bullying, cornered by larger neighbors who are seeking nothing short of the surrender of Qatari sovereignty. “They have no right to impose such measures against a country,” said the Foreign Minister, adding that if the blockading nations are not held accountable for their illegal actions towards Qatar, it would set an unhealthy precedent for smaller countries elsewhere. “This is a high risk for world order, not just for Qatar,” said the foreign minister, who said Qatar was caught in a baseless conflict fueled by disinformation. That includes what he suggested was the initial spur for the crisis: A hack of Qatari state media, now pinned by US investigators on the UAE, which planted false quotes attributed to the Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani that helped trigger the spat with other Gulf states. In the latest bid to broker some form of truce, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Saudi Arabia over the weekend and then arrived in Doha on Monday. Turkish officials said they’re pushing for direct talks between Qatar and the quartet of Arab countries that have Doha in their crosshairs. At present, the Emir of Kuwait has played the role of intermediary. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has worked fitfully behind the scenes to mediate the dispute, but was initially hamstrung by mixed messaging from the White House, with President Trump appearing to take the side of Qatar’s adversaries.
The Foreign Minister said that he was in close communication with Tillerson. He played down any potential rift between Tillerson and Trump, whom he said had spoken with the Emir and indicated that Tillerson was “the only one in charge” of resolving the crisis. Nevertheless, the dispute has entered a tense, rumbling stalemate. The quartet initially delivered a list of 13 of demands — including calls for Qatar to shutter its controversial television network, sever ties with Iran and remove Turkish troops stationed on Qatari soil — that were rebuffed by Doha. Anybody scanning the ultimatum, the Foreign Minister said, “would find it very offensive for a sovereign country to receive such list of demands”.