Qatar’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister said the country has US-backing to resolve the ongoing crisis with a Saudi-led bloc, but the country is also “well-prepared” should its Gulf Arab neighbours make military moves.
The Trump administration is encouraging all sides to end the dispute and has offered to host talks at the Camp David presidential retreat, but only Qatar has agreed to the dialogue, HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said yesterday. Four countries in the Saudi-led bloc severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar in June, accusing it of backing extremist groups, a charge Doha has repeatedly denied. Saudi Arabia closed Qatar’s only land border.
Sheikh Mohamed said he will meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson next week after having talks this week with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and ranking member Ben Cardin as well as other congressional leaders.
“The Middle East needs to be addressed as the top priority of the foreign policy agenda of the US,” he told reporters in Washington on Thursday. “We see a pattern of irresponsibility and a reckless leadership in the region, which is just trying to bully countries into submission.”
Sheikh Mohamed accused Saudi Arabia of interfering in other countries’ affairs, citing the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri as an example of the oil-rich kingdom’s overreach and warning that other countries could be next.
He compared Saudi Arabia’s political manoeuvres in Lebanon to its boycott of his country, and accused Riyadh of a dangerous escalation.
HE Sheikh Mohamed, in Washington to push Qatar’s case in its diplomatic stand-off with the kingdom and its allies, said Saudi Arabia has triggered crises across the region.
He maintained Qatar’s stance, arguing that Riyadh is responsible for detonating a series of Middle East crises, by intervening in Lebanon, boycotting Qatar and bombing Yemen.
“This is something we have just witnessed in the region: Bullying small countries into submission,” the foreign minister said, suggesting that Saudi aggression is a new regional threat.
“Exactly what happened to Qatar six months ago is happening now to Lebanon,” he told reporters in Washington.
“The leadership in Saudi and the UAE should understand that there is a world order that should be respected. International law should be respected,” he said.
Asked about the prospect of the Saudi-led bloc taking military action, Sheikh Mohamed said though Qatar hopes that won’t happen, his country is “well-prepared” and can count on its defence partners, including France, Turkey, the UK and the US, which has a base in Qatar.
“We have enough friends in order to stop them from taking these steps,” but “there is a pattern of unpredictability in their behaviour so we have to keep all the options on the table for us,” he said.
On the US military presence, he said “if there is any aggression when it comes to Qatar, those forces will be affected.”
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