Belated as it may be, there is a great need to take issue with the recent visit of United Arab Emirates (UAE) Energy Minister Suhail Mohamed Faraj Al Mazrouei for a meeting with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
The UAE minister went against protocol and potentially embarrassed the host country by using his visit as a platform for a diplomatic war against Qatar. He came here for the purported agenda of boosting the two countries’ energy sector cooperation, but ended up asking for Seoul’s support.
A week earlier, Qatar and Korea had an energy ministers’ meeting but no moves against the UAE or any of its three allies in the ongoing row came out of it. During his meeting with Kang, Al Mazrouei called Qatar a source of extremism and terrorism. The UAE minister also called a news conference to pour venom on his Middle Eastern neighbor. He blamed Qatar for sabotaging a diplomatic effort to solve their differences by leaking a 13-point demand that called on Qatar to close its global news network, Al Jazeera, among other things. Al Jazeera has been critical of the region’s kingdoms for their autocratic kings, especially the House of Saud. The network is lauded as a beacon of free press in the region after the BBC bureau was kicked out.
No state-level pressure or attack against a media outlet with the purpose of influencing its editorial policy should be condoned. The UAE minister’s behavior may well reflect his country’s anti-press freedom tendency. Minister Kang could have been firmer with her message that the visitor should keep his domestic politics off the agenda.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain have been trying to isolate Qatar diplomatically and economically as part of a struggle for power between Saudi Arabia and Iran.