Qatar’s emir says ready to talk to end crisis
Sheikh Tamim says fighting terrorism ‘a big priority’ as Merkel urges ‘fair compromise’
BERLIN/PARIS: Qatar is ready to sit at the negotiating table to try to end a dispute with its Gulf Arab neighbors, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said Friday while in Berlin.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, accusing the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas of financing terrorism and cozying up to their archrival Iran. Qatar denies supporting extremism, saying the crisis is politically motivated.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman spoke by phone with Sheikh Tamim a week ago in what looked like a breakthrough. But Riyadh promptly suspended any dialogue with Doha, accusing it of “distorting facts” in a state news agency’s report of the phone interaction.
“As you know we have had a siege of more than 100 days against Qatar,” Sheikh Tamim told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. “Qatar is prepared to take a seat at the table to solve this problem.” He also said that fighting terrorism “is a big priority for us and we have to concentrate on the roots of terrorism.”
For her part, Merkel said she was concerned that there was still no solution to the crisis, adding she supported efforts by Kuwait and the United States to mediate an end to the dispute. “We won’t solve this conflict in the open with everyone in the world voicing their opinion” she said, calling for talks “that are not reported in the newspaper everyday.”
Merkel said good results “are not reached in the market place but generally achieved by talking calmly and seeking a fair compromise.”
Germany has been supporting diplomatic efforts to try and defuse the crisis. Its foreign minister has said the country’s intelligence service would play a role in clearing up accusations that Qatar supports terrorist groups.
Sheikh Tamim also said he retained confidence in German firms and will hold on to stakes in Deutsche Bank and Volkswagen.
Following the meetings with Merkel, the emir went to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. He left the Elysee Palace without speaking to the press. In a statement released after meeting with Sheikh Tamim, Macron urged the lifting of a Saudi-led embargo on Qatar in effect since June. He called for “the embargo measures affecting the people of Qatar, in particular families and students, to be lifted as quickly as possible,” the statement said.
Macron also “expressed his concern over the tensions that threaten regional stability, undermining the political resolution of crises and our collective fight against terrorism,” the statement said.
The emir will meet U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting next week in New York, the White House said Friday.
The emir met in Ankara Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who’s been a major supporter of his country during the 3month-old conflict. Turkey has shown solidarity with Doha by delivering food and other supplies and boosting military ties, including sending troops to a Turkish base there.
Among demands the Arab nations made of Qatar in June is for all Turkish troops in the country to be expelled. Others include limiting diplomatic ties to Iran, shutting down the state-funded Al-Jazeera satellite news network and other media outlets and severing ties to all “terrorist organizations,” including the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah. Qatar has rejected the demands as violations of its sovereignty.
In Ankara, the two leaders “stressed the need for a resolution through diplomatic means” to the crisis, according to Erdogan’s office.
But as the emir was in Ankara calling for dialogue, a Qatari exile held a conference in London that explored the possibility of a “bloodless coup” overthrowing the government in Doha.
The conference was organized by Khalid al-Hail. Analysts and experts have suggested Hail is supported by the Arab countries now boycotting Qatar, something he denies.
“We have a crisis, the government of Qatar has to admit it,” Hail said.
“And I don’t believe the current regime in Qatar is acting for the good of my people.”
Separately, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry warned its citizens against traveling to Egypt, because it said the authorities there had imposed “security measures” on Qataris entering the country. It did not provide details in a statement. – Agencies
Merkel said she was concerned that there was still no solution to the crisis.