Blockade hinders fight against IS: minister
October 18 2017 01:51 PM
HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani
The closure of Qatar's only land border and the airspace ban on Qatari planes "undermines the global efforts in countering" IS in Iraq and Syria, HE Sheikh Mohamed said

Al Jazeera & Agencies

The ongoing blockade has impeded the fight against the Islamic State group in the region, HE the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani has said.

The US Al Udeid airbase in Qatar has suffered because of the air blockade and also due to the Saudi decision to seal off Qatar's only land border, HE the Minister said during an interview with CNBC.

"Ninety per cent of our supplies, our food supplies, our medical supplies, is coming through the land border and part of that is going to the base," he said.

The airspace blockade meant that Qatari aircraft providing logistical support for the American military base (Al Udeid) have been diverted, and Qatari officers participating in operations against the Islamic State were expelled from the Bahrain-based US military headquarters.

As airspace is now blocked to Qatari aircraft that offer strategic support, those planes can only now use one path, north towards Iran.

"So there are a lot of things which undermine ... the global efforts in countering ... Daesh," he noted.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of supporting "extremism and terrorism". Qatar denied the allegations.

HE the Minister said his country sought to resolve the crisis through dialogue, but Saudi Arabia wanted to destabilise Qatar. "They are into escalation, they are into thinking about regime change and other things," he added.

"We see (Saudi) government officials talking about regime change. We see officials inciting the people to go and protest their government, so it is about regime change," he said. "We see a country that is bringing back the dark ages of tribes and putting them together in order to create a pressure on connected tribes in Qatar."

HE Sheikh Mohamed said the intention of the alliance of blockading countries was not to curtail terrorism, but more to "disrespect and bully".

"It is nothing to do with stopping financing terrorism or hate speech while they are doing the same by promoting incitement against my country, promoting a regime change in my country," he said.

Since the beginning of the crisis, HE the Minister continued, both the US and the Emir of Kuwait have helped calm the rhetoric and steer the blockading countries away from any threat of military action.

He also argued that Qatar does not share the values of Iran but needs to have an open dialogue with the country. "Restoring diplomatic relations with Iran does not change our policy with them. We cannot increase the tension with them. We need to have dialogue," he added.

HE the Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani told CNBC that the blockade was not crippling Qatar.

He said Qatar had found ways to get around land blockades by importing and exporting more via sea and air.

"As I'm talking to you now, we are open to business to all around the world. The only effect comes from the land border, which has been blocked, but we went to other alternative sources to import all our needs," he added.

HE the Minister stressed that the Gulf crisis had forced Qatar to accelerate existing plans for self-sufficiency and diversify away from oil revenues.

Last updated: October 18 2017 11:13 PM

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