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Robert Cusack

Qatar Foreign Minister dismisses blockade demands and calls for dialogue

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman speaking in Doha on 4 July [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 5 July, 2017

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The minister said the main reasons behind the demands were 'baseless', adding that the blockade was designed to bring Doha back into line with GCC foreign policy.
Qatar's Foreign Minister said on Wednesday the main reason behind the country's ongoing blockade was "opposing differences" between Qatar's foreign policy and that of other GCC members.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman told London's Chatham House the independence of Qatar's foreign policy was a central issue that Doha would protect.

"The main reason [for the blockade] is to shut the other voices down," the minister said.

The deadline for the list of thirteen demands against Qatar, made by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, passes on Wednesday.

Sheikh Mohammed said the demands, orchestrated by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were designed to be rejected, as they required Qatar to sacrifice its sovereignty.

The minister said the US was not involved in the decision making behind the blockade and questioned the role of Cairo and Manama, as their influence had remained minimal.

"Egypt or Bahrain – if they have their own reasons for the demands they can present them – but we see Saudi Arabia and UAE as the main drivers."

Egypt or Bahrain – if they have their own reasons for the demands they can present them – but we see Saudi Arabia and UAE as the main drivers

A drawn out approach

The minister first said that dialogue was the answer to the region's problems and he would welcome any "serious efforts to improve relations".

Yet despite this proposition, he also said he expected the rift to extend for an indefinite period into the "medium future".

"Qatar is currently paying ten times the normal cost for shipping," he said, adding that they were pursuing "alternatives" to ensure the supply chain wouldn't be cut off by the blockade.

The minister also rejected the list of complaints as "baseless", saying that the first demand to sever ties with Iran showed how farcical the list actually was.

"Iran is a neighbouring country, we cannot just cut them off, we have to live alongside each other," adding that 96 percent of Gulf trade with Iran is with the UAE, "yet they're asking us to sever ties with Iran."

96% of Gulf trade with Iran is with the UAE... yet they're asking us to sever ties with Iran

Fear and dissent

Another main reason behind the blockade was that the Gulf monarchies fear criticism and dissent, Sheikh Mohammed said.

Qatar's sponsorship of media outlets, which have "completely transformed the Arab world" through their criticism, was "unprecedented".

"This feeling of resentment intensified after the Arab Spring, as they choose to avoid accountability by blaming the media."

The difference between Gulf sponsored media outlets and the rest of the world could be seen in the response to the April hack on the Qatar News Agency.

"Almost all of the world's media outlets issued corrections that the fabricated statements were fake news and lies – except for the Saudi, UAE and Egypt outlets," he said.

"Only these agencies continued to publish them as fact," adding that they had known they were publishing "fake news".

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