UAE de­nies any hack­ing of Qatar

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The United Arab Emi­rates was not re­spon­si­ble for an al­leged hack of Qatari web­sites which helped spark a month-long diplo­matic rift with Doha, the UAE’s min­is­ter of state for for­eign af­fairs said yes­ter­day. An­war Gar­gash de­nied as false a story in the Wash­ing­ton Post that cited US of­fi­cials say­ing the UAE had or­ches­trated the hack of Qatar’s state news agency.

The re­port quotes un­named US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials as say­ing that se­nior mem­bers of the Emi­rati govern­ment dis­cussed the plan on May 23. On the fol­low­ing day, a story ap­peared on the Qatari News Agency’s web­site quot­ing a speech by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad AlThani, in which he al­legedly praised Iran and said Qatar has a good re­la­tion­ship with Is­rael. Sim­i­larly in­cen­di­ary state­ments ap­peared on the news agency’s Twit­ter feed. The agency quickly claimed it was hacked and re­moved the ar­ti­cle. But Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all blocked Qatari me­dia and later sev­ered diplo­matic ties.

“The Wash­ing­ton Post story to­day that we ac­tu­ally hacked the Qataris is also not true,” Gar­gash told the Lon­don-based think­tank Chatham House. The Emi­rati Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton also re­leased a state­ment in re­sponse call­ing the Post re­port “false” and in­sist­ing that the UAE “had no role what­so­ever” in the al­leged hack­ing.

“The in­for­ma­tion pub­lished in the Wash­ing­ton Post on 16 July 2017, which re­vealed the in­volve­ment of the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) and se­nior Emi­rati of­fi­cials in the hack­ing of Qatar News Agency, un­equiv­o­cally proves that this hack­ing crime took place,” Qatar’s govern­ment said in a state­ment yes­ter­day. US of­fi­cials have said that ex­perts from the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI) help­ing Qatar in­ves­ti­gate the in­ci­dent are con­vinced QNA was hacked, but that iden­ti­fy­ing the cul­prit will take time.

Gar­gash said the four Arab pow­ers were in the process of dis­cussing ad­di­tional sanc­tions on Doha. “There will be some tight­en­ing of the screws,” he said in an in­ter­view, de­clin­ing to give a time­frame on when new mea­sure could be in­tro­duced. “We will see what are these screws, whether they are fi­nan­cial, whether they are other, but they com­pletely within our (re­mit) as sov­er­eign states.”

Yet the UAE would not es­ca­late its boy­cott by ask­ing com­pa­nies to choose be­tween do­ing busi­ness with it or with Qatar, he added. Gar­gash, who also sug­gested in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tor­ing of Qatar was needed, added there were no plans for a meet­ing be­tween the two sides un­der the aus­pices of Kuwait, a neu­tral Gulf Arab coun­try seek­ing to me­di­ate in the spat.

Gar­gash also warned Qatar it could not be­long to the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil if it un­der­mined re­gional se­cu­rity, call­ing for a “change of be­hav­ior” but not “regime change”. He re­peated claims - de­nied by Qatar - that the coun­try funds ex­trem­ists. “This is our mes­sage: You can­not be part of a re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to strength­en­ing mu­tual se­cu­rity and fur­ther­ing mu­tual in­ter­est and at the same time un­der­mine that se­cu­rity,” he said. “You can­not be both our friend and a friend of al-Qaeda.”

The Gulf cri­sis is the worst to hit the re­gion since the es­tab­lish­ment of the GCC in 1981. “We’ve sent a mes­sage to Qatar. We’ve said we are not there to es­ca­late. We are not af­ter regime change. We are af­ter a change of be­hav­ior,” Gar­gash said. “We need to do that and when we do that, come back to the fold and we can work to­gether,” he added.

Gar­gash said there was a broader prob­lem with fi­nanc­ing for ex­trem­ists in the Gulf but that coun­tries like Saudi Ara­bia were “deal­ing with it”. “The dif­fer­ence is that the Saudi govern­ment re­al­izes it does have an is­sue and the Saudi govern­ment is act­ing over the last years to deal with this is­sue,” he said. Re­gard­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of Qatar be­ing ex­cluded from the GCC, Gar­gash said: “The GCC is in cri­sis and I don’t think it serves our pur­poses to say let’s take Qatar out.”

“What we re­ally do want is we ei­ther reach an agree­ment and Qatar’s be­hav­ior changes, or Qatar makes its own bed and they can move on and we can move with a new re­la­tion­ship. But we can­not have a mem­ber who is un­der­min­ing us and sup­port­ing ex­trem­ism,” he said. — Agen­cies

An­war Gar­gash

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