Lift block­ade be­fore Gulf talks: Doha

EU FMs to sup­port Kuwait me­di­a­tion

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

DOHA, June 19, (Agen­cies): Qatar’s foreign min­is­ter on Mon­day called on neigh­bour­ing states to lift their “block­ade” of his coun­try be­fore Doha takes part in any ne­go­ti­a­tions on end­ing the Gulf diplo­matic cri­sis.

Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al-Thani called mea­sures to iso­late Qatar im­posed by Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Bahrain and oth­ers “an act of ag­gres­sion”, adding that lift­ing them was a “pre-con­di­tion” for talks.

“We have to make it very clear for ev­ery­one, ne­go­ti­a­tions must be done in a civilised way and should have a solid ba­sis and not un­der pres­sure or un­der block­ade,” the foreign min­is­ter told re­porters in Doha. “Qatar un­der block­ade — there is no ne­go­ti­a­tion. They have to lift the block­ade.” On June 5, Saudi Ara­bia and al­lied states cut all ties with Qatar, pulling their am­bas­sadors from the emirate and or­der­ing its cit­i­zens to repa­tri­ate by June 19.

The mea­sures also in­cluded clos­ing Qatar’s only land bor­der, ban­ning its planes from us­ing their airspace and bar­ring Qatari na­tion­als from tran­sit­ing through their air­ports.

Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and other states ac­cuse Qatar of sup­port­ing and fund­ing “ter­ror­ism” and of work­ing with re­gional ri­val Iran, charges Doha firmly de­nies.

Sheikh Mo­hammed’s de­mand came as a UAE min­is­ter warned that Qatar’s diplo­matic iso­la­tion could “last years”.

Sheikh Mo­hammed said that Qatar had not re­ceived any de­mands from the Gulf states or from coun­tries seek­ing a diplo­matic so­lu­tion, in­clud­ing Kuwait, the United States, France and Britain.

“Why they didn’t sub­mit their de­mands yet? For us, there is no clear an­swer for this,” he said.

“But what we have seen un­til now, there is no solid ground for these de­mands, that’s why they didn’t sub­mit their de- mands yet.” The foreign min­is­ter added that the eco­nomic im­pact on Qatar had so far proved min­i­mal but added: “We are not claim­ing we are liv­ing in a per­fect con­di­tion.”

The Gulf po­lit­i­cal cri­sis has also af­fected coun­tries out­side the re­gion.

“France, UK or the United States — they are strong al­lies of Qatar and we have a great deal of co­op­er­a­tion to­gether in terms of mil­i­tary, de­fence, se­cu­rity, eco­nom­i­cally,” said Sheikh Mo­hammed.

“So a block­ade on Qatar and mea­sures be­ing taken against Qatar in this way is af­fect­ing the in­ter­ests of those coun­tries as well, di­rectly.”

UAE warns Qatar

The United Arab Emi­rates warned Qatar on Mon­day that sanc­tions im­posed by sev­eral of its neigh­bours could last for years un­less Doha ac­cepts de­mands which Arab pow­ers plan to re­veal in com­ing days.

The tough re­marks by UAE Min­is­ter of State for Foreign Af­fairs An­war Gar­gash on Mon­day made clear that the coun­tries seek­ing to iso­late Qatar have no in­ten­tion of back­ing down soon.

“Qatar will re­alise that this is a new state of af­fairs and iso­la­tion can last years,” Gar­gash told a small group of re­porters in Paris on Mon­day.

“If they want to be iso­lated be­cause of their per­verted view of what their po­lit­i­cal role is, then let them be iso­lated. They are still in a phase of de­nial and anger,” he said, adding that a list of griev­ances for Qatar to ad­dress would be com­pleted in the next days.

Ex­pul­sion comes into ef­fect

The dead­line for Qataris to leave neigh­bor­ing Gulf Arab states came into ef­fect on Mon­day as the diplo­matic stand­off per­sisted with no end in sight de­spite mul­ti­ple ef­forts at me­di­a­tion.

Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and an­nounced that Qatari res­i­dents would have 14 days to leave. They also urged their own cit­i­zens in Qatar to leave and threat­ened im­pris­on­ment and fines for any­one who crit­i­cizes the mea­sures.

Of­fi­cials later clar­i­fied there would be ex­cep­tions for mixed na­tion­al­ity fam­i­lies in the Gulf, where tribes span across na­tional bor­ders. Saudi Ara­bia also said it would not bar Qataris want­ing to per­form the Mus­lim pil­grim­age to Makkah.

Rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said, how­ever, such mea­sures are “clearly in­suf­fi­cient to ad­dress the hu­man rights im­pact of the ar­bi­trary, blan­ket mea­sures.”

Prior to the diplo­matic row, Qatari na­tion­als could travel visa-free be­tween Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. Qatar has said it has no plans to ex­pel Gulf na­tion­als re­sid­ing there.

The United Na­tions hu­man rights chief last week crit­i­cized the ex­pul­sion of Qataris, say­ing peo­ple risk los­ing ac­cess to their homes and jobs, and stu­dents can­not sit for ex­ams.

In ad­di­tion to sev­er­ing diplo­matic ties, the Gulf states have blocked Qatar’s ac­cess to their airspace, ship­ping lanes and ports. They have also barred di­rect flights to Qatar’s cap­i­tal, Doha. Saudi Ara­bia sealed Qatar’s only land bor­der, a key route for food im­ports.

Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, di­rec­tor of Qatar’s Govern­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Of­fice, said in a state­ment that the block­ade, now en­ter­ing its third week, is tear­ing at the so­cial fab­ric of the Gulf.

“It is clear that the ac­tions of the blockad­ing na­tions have lit­tle to do with ad­dress­ing le­git­i­mate griev­ances and ev­ery­thing to do with at­tack­ing Qatar’s image and rep­u­ta­tion,” he said.

Turkey, Qatar troops drill

Turk­ish troops have taken part in long-planned joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises in Qatar, mil­i­tary sources and al Jazeera tele­vi­sion re­ported on Mon­day, fol­low­ing a diplo­matic rift be­tween Doha and four other Arab states.

Doha-based al Jazeera re­ported that Turk­ish troops had ar­rived in Qatar on Sun­day. Mil­i­tary sources in the re­gion told Reuters no new Turk­ish mil­i­tary unit had been sent to Qatar and a unit

al­ready present there was tak­ing part in the drills.

Al Jazeera posted a video on its web­site of ar­moured per­son­nel car­ri­ers mov­ing through streets.

Turkey’s par­lia­ment on June 7 fast­tracked leg­is­la­tion to al­low troops to be de­ployed to a mil­i­tary base in Qatar that cur­rently houses about 90 Turk­ish sol­diers.

Turkey set up the base, its first such in­stal­la­tion in the Mid­dle East, as part of an agree­ment signed in 2014.

The Turk­ish forces con­ducted their first train­ing at Tariq bin Ziyad mil­i­tary base on Sun­day, al Jazeera said, cit­ing the min­istry, say­ing the drills had been long planned.

EU sup­ports me­di­a­tion

Foreign Min­is­ters of the 28-mem­ber Euro­pean Union (EU) on Mon­day en­dorsed their sup­port to the me­di­a­tion ef­forts by His High­ness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad AlJaber Al-Sabah to find a quick so­lu­tion to the cri­sis in the Gulf.

“I can share with you that all 28 min­is­ters were fully back­ing the ap­proach we have taken in the last cou­ple of weeks — We en­cour­age all Gulf coun­tries to en­gage in di­a­logue with­out pre­con­di­tion and ac­cept­ing the me­di­a­tion role of Kuwait,” EU High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fed­er­ica Mogherini told a press con­fer­ence af­ter a meet­ing of EU foreign min­is­ters in Lux­em­bourg this af­ter­noon.

“All par­ties have an in­ter­est in find­ing a quick so­lu­tion to the ten­sions.The ex­cel­lent me­di­at­ing ef­forts of the HH the Amir of Kuwait has our full sup­port,” stressed the EU foreign pol­icy chief.

“We are ready to help, as­sist and ac­com­pany these me­di­a­tion ef­forts in all ways that might be re­quested. We be­lieve though that the re­gion, the Gulf, has in it­self the pos­si­ble strength and wis­dom to find a po­lit­i­cal way out of this cri­sis,” she stated.

Mogherini said that the EU min­is­ters ex­pressed a strong in­ter­est in the sta­bil­ity and the unity of the Gulf, not­ing that the Gulf coun­tries are key in­ter­locu­tors and part­ners in the fight against ter­ror­ism , in find­ing the way out in some of the con­flicts of the re­gion start­ing from Syria, but also be­ing rel­e­vant in­ter­locu­tors or ac­tors when it comes to the sit­u­a­tion in Libya.

“We en­cour­age de-es­ca­la­tion. The EU has firm in­ten­tion to keep strong relations and ties with all Gulf coun­tries. I see that there is an in­ter­est in all the ac­tors around the Gulf to find a way out of the ten­sions through di­a­logue,” she said.

Mogherini said she had dis­cussed the cri­sis with the Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Foreign Min­is­ter Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Ha­mad Al-Sabah.

“Our strong plea to our friends in the Gulf is for rea­son to prevail and find a way to solve any dis­pute and dif­fer­ences through di­a­logue,” she said.

Mean­while, Ger­man Foreign Min­is­ter Sig­m­mar Gabriel told re­porters af­ter the meet­ing: “We all sup­port the me­di­a­tion ef­forts of the Amir of Kuwait.

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