Qatar says no one has the right to discuss its foreign policy

Published June 13, 2017
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani

PARIS: Qatar on Monday denounced the sanctions imposed against Doha by Saudi Arabia and its allies as “unfair” and “illegal”, as Britain announced talks to try to resolve the crisis.

“Whatever relates to our foreign affairs ... no one has the right to discuss,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told reporters during a visit to Paris.

He called for “dialogue based on clear foundations” over accusations that Qatar supports extremist groups. “Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security,” he added.

In London, British foreign minister Boris Johnson said he would meet this week with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, and called for calm. “I have urged all sides to refrain from any further escalation and to engage in mediation efforts,” he said.

While praising Qatar’s restraint during the crisis, he added: “In finding a resolution, I call on Qatar to take seriously their neighbours’ concerns.” Qatar is a partner of the UK in the fight against terrorism but they urgently need to do more to address support for extremist groups, building on the steps they have already taken to tackle funding to those groups.”

Kuwaiti mediation welcomed

In Paris, Sheikh Mohammed, who is on a European tour to drum up support for Qatar, said his country had no idea what had provoked the move against it. “It’s not about Iran or Al-Jazeera,” he said, referring to the Qatar-based broadcaster. “We have no clue about the real reasons.”

But he supported moves by Kuwait to act as a mediator in the dispute “with the help of friendly countries such as the United States,” he added.

Qatar Airways calls for UN intervention

In Doha, Qatar Airways called on the UN’s aviation body to declare the Gulf boycott against the carrier “illegal” and a violation of a 1944 convention on international air transport. In televised interviews on Monday, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker called the move an “illegal blockade” and urged the United Nations’ civil aviation branch to intervene.

Qatar Airways has made Doha a global hub in just a few years, but industry analysts say banning it from Gulf states’ airspace could threaten its position as a major transcontinental carrier.

Qatar announced on Monday that it had launched direct shipping services to ports in Oman in a bid to bypass the Gulf “blockade”.

Saudi Arabia has closed the Qatari peninsula’s only land border, threatening imports of both fresh food and raw materials needed to complete a $200 billion infrastructure project for the 2022 football World Cup. Iran had announced Sunday that it had sent five planes carrying produce to Qatar. Three ships carrying 350 tonnes of food were also set to leave Iran for the emirate.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2017

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