Posts Tagged ‘al Jazeera’

Israel’s Al-Jazeera move sends ‘chilling message’: Amnesty

August 7, 2017


© AFP/File | Al-Jazeera’s Jerusalem office
LONDON (AFP) – Israel’s decision to close the offices of broadcaster Al-Jazeera in the Jewish state is “a brazen attack on media freedom”, Amnesty International said Monday.”The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage,” Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at the London-based group, said in a statement.

“This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” she added.

She urged Israel to “halt any attempt to silence critical media”, saying that “all journalists should be free to carry out their work without facing harassment or intimidation”.

Israel said Sunday it would demand the revocation of the credentials of journalists working for the channel and also cut its cable and satellite connections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said on July 27 that he wanted Al-Jazeera expelled amid tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.

Israel has regularly accused the Doha-based broadcaster of bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


From Newsweek

Qatar’s flagship Al Jazeera news channel has hit back at Israel over its decision to close the TV station’s Jerusalem bureau and revoke the accreditation of its journalists saying the move undermines the nation’s claim to be a democracy.

Al Jazeera has found itself at the centre of one of the most inflammatory diplomatic crises to grip the gulf states in decades. Saudi Arabia and its allies—accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and backing regional rival Iran—have cut all ties with their tiny gas producing neighbor. The closure of Doha-based Al Jazeera is one of 13 demands issued by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain before normal relations can resume.

Israel gave its most explicit backing of the Saudi boycott  to date on Sunday when Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said Israel would shut down the network’s cable and satellite transmissions in the country as well as the other measures against its journalists.

“We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work,” Kara said. His comments followed statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  criticising the channel’s coverage of recent Arab boycotts over Israeli security measures at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque. Al Jazeera was denied access to the press conference about its own future.

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An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem June 13, 2017. REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN/

Fewer than 24 hours later the news channel offered its response. In a statement on the planned closure and other measures Al Jazeera said it “ denounces this decision made by a state that claims to be ‘the only democratic state in the Middle East.’”

Al Jazeera said that it would “watch closely the developments that may result from the Israeli decision, and will take the necessary legal measures towards it.”

The news channel challenged Kara, saying the Israeli minister had failed to substantiate his claims over Al Jazeera’s coverage, saying the network would “continue covering news and events in the occupied Palestinian territories in a professional and objective manner in accordance with the common journalistic standards set by the relevant international organizations, such as the British Broadcasting Code of Ofcom.”

The move by Israel follows the closure of Al Jazeera bureaus in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The UAE has also blocked Al Jazeera’s signal, while Egypt banned Al Jazeera following the ouster of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi. Al Jazeera and its Arabic language channel in particular have been accused of support for the Islamist movement.


Qatar tactics seen as failure as crisis enters third month

August 6, 2017

Instead of addressing Quartet concerns, Doha chose instead to protest against the boycott at international organisations

Image Credit: REUTERS
A man walks on the corniche in Doha, Qatar.
Published: 17:23 August 6, 2017Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Qatari crisis has entered its third month, but the boycott of Doha imposed by the Arab quartet is set to continue because the Qatari regime fails to comply with their 13 demands and broader UN principles to combat terrorism and stop interference in other countries’ affairs, analysts say.

Although they are ready for talks with Doha, the Arab quartet is fully prepared to confront Qatari intrasigience for the long haul. The situation seems to be heading for a protracted crisis.

The four countries have expressed they are ready for dialogue with Qatar if it declares its “sincere willingness” to stop funding terrorism and extremism, halt interference in other countries’ foreign affairs, and respond to the 13 demands.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar and closed their airspace and ports to Qatar-registered planes and ships over accusations it was supporting terrorist and extremist groups.

Instead of seriously addressing concerns of the Arab quartet and thus returning to the GCC fold, Doha opted to manoeuvre by protesting against the boycott at international organisations.

First by claiming the quartet’s move was a “blockade”. But the Arab quartet refuted Doha’s claims that a “blockade” has been imposed on Qatar by GCC countries, arguing that it was a boycott in keeping with international laws and motivated by the need to protect their national security.

Following the Manama meeting, Shaikh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said all measures taken by four states were within the jurisdiction of international law and “essential to deter the scourge of terrorism which affected stability of other countries.”

Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said in Washington after a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson there is no blockade of Qatar.

“The ports are open, the airports are open … What we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace, and this is our sovereign right. The limitation on the use of Saudi airspace is only limited to Qatar Airways or Qatari-owned aircraft, not anybody else … Qatar’s seaports were open,” Al Jubeir said.

In another failed attempt to politicise the Haj pilgrimage, Qatar accused Saudi Arabia of stopping its citizens from attending the Haj, a false claim that Riyadh called a “declaration of war”.

Qatar took its complaint to the UN special rapporteur, prompting an angry response from the Saudi Foreign Minister.

Despite the deepening row, Saudi Arabia says Qataris are welcome to attend the Haj, which is due to begin this month.

Qatar has also claimed the boycotting countries were in violation of the air travel treaty because they blocked Qatari flights from their airspace, a charge negated by the UN’s aviation authority, the International Civil Aviation Authority.

Saudi Arabia has also provided emergency corridors for Qatar through their airspace.

Desperate to lift the boycott, Qatar also launched a legal process at the World Trade Organisation, requesting consultations with the three Gulf countries and triggering a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

The wide-ranging legal complaint at the Geneva-based body is set to fail as the economic sanctions imposed on Qatar by the three fellow Gulf states do not violate WTO agreements, the Quartet has said.

Qatar has also accused Egypt of misusing its position on the UN Security Council, but Cairo denied the allegation in a letter to the council on Thursday, and accused Qatar of supporting terrorist groups financially and ideologically in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Dr. Ayman Salama, a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs and professor of international law at Cairo University, believes the boycott and the economic sanctions by the Arab quartet is completely legal that cannot be challenged, especially as Qatar has repeatedly undermined their national security.

“The measures taken by the Arab quartet are sovereign steps to protect the security and the safety of their countries,” Dr Salama told Gulf News.

Qatar’s public relations campaigns have also been dismal failures in making the right impression among Americans, as the Arab News/YouGov poll shows.

Half of respondents said they do not know enough about the Gulf state to pass judgement.

Yet, the next highest response rate — at some 34 per cent — reflects those whom associate Qatar with terror financing.

The poll also shows that most Americans, at 63 per cent, recognise Al Jazeera as a news source, but they do not believe that the network reflects professional journalism standards, which means many Americans do not trust Al Jazeera’s reporting.

Qatar permanent residency offer a ploy to keep expatriates from leaving

August 3, 2017

Reaction muted on social media with many users skeptical that such a move will actually happen

Published: 16:03 August 3, 2017Gulf News

Dubai: Amid growing concerns its expatriates are pondering flowing out of the country following the inexorably growing crisis that erupted on June 5, Qatar has moved to offer some of its foreigners a new residence status that could motivate them to stay.

Qatar, where foreigners make up 88 per cent of the total population, hopes that by affording skilled expatriates the same education and healthcare rights as Qataris and property ownership, it will not lose them and, will not have, consequently, to face inevitable crippling challenges.

“Qatar is now moving ahead with a plan to ensure it keeps the people it desperately needs in the country following the mounting pressure resulting from the new situation after three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Egypt severed their diplomatic and trade ties with Doha,” Mohammad Jaber, an analyst, said.

“It also wants to play a charm offensive game to win sympathy for adopting a more friendly and flexible approach with expatriates in a region where the sponsorship system has been dominant.”

On his part, UAE Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said that Qatar’s dependency on media, marketing “fictitious” accounts, has been exposed as it counters “human logic”.

Expatriates sometimes find life difficult in Qatar

Under the new scheme announced by the cabinet, permanent residency ID holders will receive the same treatment as Qataris in education and healthcare in public institutions and will be given priority, after locals, in holding public military and civil jobs.

“In addition, holders of that ID have the right to own property and engage in some commercial businesses without the need to have a Qatari partner, in line with the executive decisions that will be issued by the cabinet according to the provisions of the law,” a statement issued on Wednesday said.

The husbands of local women and those with “special competencies” needed by the state can also qualify.

Comments on social media were more cautious than enthusiastic.

“What about your kids? Does it get passed down to them? If not, then still no real incentive to stay in Qatar long time,” the commenter posted.

“I wouldn’t get too excited, it’s probably more of an aspiration than something that is likely to happen.”

Foreigners keen on the status must apply to the Ministry of Interior, but their application will have to be approved by a special committee to be set up to sift through the applications.

The idea of granting foreigners with “special competencies” a more secure permanent residency status in Qatar had been floating for several years.

Several people born and raised in Qatar have also called for the special status that would eliminate the sponsorship rules and exit permit requirements and would give them priority in hiring and flexible property ownership.

The official Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2011-2016, concluding that “turnover is substantial among high-skilled labour, especially in the health and education sectors, and that the rising proportion of expatriate workers in the past decade has created considerable risks, including to the economy, should a major crisis force expatriates to leave”, recommended “a recruitment and retention programme, including a review and revision as may be necessary, of Qatar’s sponsorship system,” as part of the country’s efforts to retain skilled expatriates.

However, the state seemed to ignore the recommendation until Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed their ties with Qatar and Doha found itself in the face of new challenges that could make thousands of skilled expatriates leave the country.

But all is not black or white. Many expats love it in Qatar…

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Qatar accuses Gulf states of ‘stubbornness’, wants UN to help

July 27, 2017


© AFP/File | A general view of the road near the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia on June 23, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – Qatar’s foreign minister on Thursday accused Gulf neighbors and Egypt of “stubbornness” in their ongoing diplomatic dispute and said the United Nations should step in to help resolve the crisis.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York to discuss tensions after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5.

The four countries accuse Qatar of backing extremism and have imposed sanctions against Doha in what the foreign minister said was a “serious violation of international law.”

“There is a role for the Security Council and for the General Assembly and all the United Nations mechanisms, because of course the violations have continued,” the foreign minister told reporters after his meeting with Guterres.

“We are seeing from the other side of the conflict this stubbornness without even taking any forthcoming step to solve this problem,” he said.

Last month Al-Thani met with several Security Council members to lobby for support, but the council and Guterres have repeatedly stressed that a solution should be found among regional partners.

Kuwait has been trying to mediate the crisis and several top Western diplomats have toured the region to try to defuse the row, including US Secretary of States Rex Tillerson.

“This is the right place where we have to start to seek all our options in order to find a legal solution,” said the foreign minister.

“Qatar has already stated more than ten times that we want to solve this issue by dialogue, and we are not willing to escalate, and they need to retreat from all their illegal actions,” he said.

The crisis between the regional allies is the worst to hit the Gulf in decades.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia and its allies unveiled a “terrorist” blacklist of 18 organizations and individuals suspected of links to Islamist extremism tied to Qatar.

The countries have demanded that Qatar break its longstanding ties with the Muslim Brotherhood — blacklisted as a terror group by the four governments, although not by the international community.

They also demanded that it close broadcasting giant Al-Jazeera and a Turkish military base, and fall in line with Saudi-led policy in the region, particularly towards Iran.

Qatar has dismissed the demands as a violation of its sovereignty and has received significant support from its ally Turkey.


  (Includes links to related articles)

18 Qatari groups and individuals added to terrorist list by Saudi-led group leading boycott

July 26, 2017

Move by Saudi-led group boycotting Qatar to add names to ‘terrorist’ list is baseless, communications director says.

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The Saudi-led bloc has added 18 groups and individuals to its ‘terror list’ [AFP]

Qatar has described a new blacklist released by Saudi Arabia and its allies as a “disappointing surprise”, saying it was doing all it could to fight extremism.

Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, Qatar’s communications director, said the decision by the four Arab states to add 18 groups and individuals allegedly linked to Qatar to their “terrorist” list had no basis in fact.

“It comes as a disappointing surprise that the blockading countries are still pursuing this story as part of their smear campaign against Qatar,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

The move by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain on Tuesday came despite mounting international pressure to compromise in their weeks-old boycott of their fellow US ally.

OPINION: Will the GCC crisis be resolved soon?

The new names include nine entities in Yemen and Libya, and add to a previous blacklist of 59 individuals and 12 groups issued by the four states last month.

Sheikh Saif said: “This latest list provides further evidence that the blockading countries are not committed to the fight against terrorism.

“All individuals with links to terrorism in Qatar have been prosecuted. We encourage the blockading countries to spend less time on drafting these fabricated lists and more time on implementing measures to counter the threat of extremism in their own countries.”

He said Qatar constantly reviews its anti-terror laws to “remain on the front foot in the fight against extremism and terror financing”.

Gargash’s opinion

For his part, Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said via Twitter on Wednesday that it is important to look beyond “crisis” and to think of it as a “new set of relations in [the] Gulf replacing old ones”.

He said the current state was set to continue and that “we have to go on without Qatar”.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been boycotting Qatar since June 5 in the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in years.

Accusing Qatar of financing terrorism, they sealed the emirate’s only land border, ordered its citizens to leave and closed their airspace and waters to Qatari flights and shipping.

Saad al-Kaabi – ‘The blockade has made Qatar stronger’ (5:20)

They want Qatar to cut back ties with Iran, close down a Turkish military base in Qatar and shut the Al Jazeera TV channel, which they view as critical of their governments.

Giles Trendle of Al Jazeera: “We’re not partisan to any particular group or ideology or government”

Qatar has dismissed the demands as a violation of its sovereignty and has received significant support from its ally Turkey.

Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, last week spent four days in the region trying to broker a settlement of the crisis. He has voiced satisfaction with Qatar’s efforts to address any suspicion of terror funding.

On the other hand, after talks with Federica Mogherini, the EU diplomatic chief, on Tuesday, Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign Minister, gave warning that the four governments would accept no compromise in their dispute with Qatar.

“We cannot compromise with any form of terrorism, we cannot compromise or enter into any form of negotiations,” he said.

In Tuesday’s statement, the four countries accused Qatari, Kuwaiti and Yemeni nationals of helping to raise funds for al-Qaeda fighters.

Their blacklist now include three Yemeni charities, three Libyan media outlets, two armed groups and a religious foundation, some of which are already subject to US sanctions.

Source: News agencies

Qatar news updates: UK joins calls to end sanctions against Qatar – latest on Gulf crisis

July 25, 2017
BRITAIN is calling for Arab states to end the embargo on Qatar as the Turkish President leaves the Gulf after failing to end the crisis. Here are the latest updates and breaking news on the Qatar blockade.

The Express
PUBLISHED: 08:00, Tue, Jul 25, 2017 | UPDATED: 08:58, Tue, Jul 25, 2017

Qatar news updatesAFP Getty

Qatar news updates: Gulf crisis latest as UK joins call to end sanctions

  • Boris Johnson backed the Qatari Emir’s call for dialogue to end the blockade 
  • Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar last month
  • The Gulf states have scaled back their Qatar demands to six principles 
  • Doha reject accusations that it finances extremist groups

Here are live updates, breaking news and the most recent information on the escalating Gulf crisis. (All times BST)

3.30am: Egypt reiterates blockade commitment

Egypt has insisted it will continue to maintain a blockade of Qatar as four Arab states yet again hammer the embattled nation with a series of bans.

The country’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said Cairo will “not backtrack” on the blockade, adding: “Our persistence on its own, our stance, and this block, is pressure in itself.”

Monday 9.20pm: Turkish President leaves Qatar

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has left Qatar having apparently failed to bring about any resolution to the row in the Gulf.

Turkey has been Qatar’s most powerful ally in the dispute, rushing through legislation to send more troops to its base in Doha as a sign of support.

But after a two day visit to the region, where he also visited Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, discussions appear to still be at stalemate.

Qatari state news agency QNA said that Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had “reviewed regional developments, specifically the Gulf crisis and efforts to contain it and to resolve it through diplomatic means…” in talks with Erdogan.

The agency said the talks also covered joint efforts to combat terrorism and reviewed defence and economic cooperation.

Several contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armoured vehicles have arrived in Doha since the crisis erupted on June 5.

Under a 2014 agreement, Ankara could send in as many as 1,000 troops.

7.30pm: Russia is prepared to mediate the Gulf crisis 

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared Russia’s readiness to mediate the diplomatic row that has shaken the Middle East.

“We are interested in this crisis being overcome, taking into account mutual concerns and finding solutions which will be acceptable for all participants of this process,” Mr Lavrov told Kurdish television channel Rudaw.

“We support the mediating efforts which are being made by the Emir of Kuwait… If as part of those efforts or in addition to them all sides think that Russia could also do something useful, we will be ready to respond to such appeals,” the Minster added.

6.11pm: Qatar’s Emir and Turkish President discuss the Gulf crisis

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the Emir of Qatar in Doha to discuss mediation efforts surrounding the diplomatic row.

Both sides praised Kuwait’s involvement and talked about joint efforts in combating “terrorism and extremism”.

Mr Erdogan is currently on a tour of the Middle East.

5.30pm: Russia is ready to act as mediator if asked

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Russia is ready to play the role of mediator in the Qatar dispute if asked.

Monday 1pm: The Turkish President visits Qatar 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has landed in Qatar – the last stop on a Gulf tour in an attempt to resolve the crisis.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Emir of KuwaitAFP Getty

Qatar news updates: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Emir of Kuwait

Monday noon: Pilgrims from Qatar can fly to Saudi Arabia

Pilgrims from Qatar will be allowed to fly to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca as long as they do not travel with Qatar Airways.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said: “Pilgrims from Qatar who have Hajj permits … can come directly from Doha or through any other transit place.”

Monday 10am: TV channels linked to Qatar unblocked in Saudi Arabia

Websites and some television channels linked to Qatar were unblocked in Saudi Arabia but the change arose from a technical glitch and the restrictions will be reimposed shortly, a key Saudi royal court adviser said.

As part of the boycott on Qatar, Saudi and Emirati authorities blocked the Qatari state-funded television network Al Jazeera and spin-off channels of beIN Sports.

But on Monday morning, Saudi viewers reported that beIN sports channels and websites were back operating, while Al Jazeera satellite channels remained blocked.

“The lifting of the block on websites of the Qatari authorities was due to a technical error and will be fixed within the coming hours,” tweeted Saudi royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani.

As of late Monday morning, Al Jazeera remained blocked in both countries, along with the websites for Qatar Airways and Doha News.

Sunday 9.30pm: Emir of Kuwait meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah in Kuwait in a bid to resolve the Gulf crisis.

It came after he met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Sunday.

Last month Turkey’s President rejected a demand by Saudi Arabia and its allies that it withdraw its troops from Qatar.

“To ask Turkey to pull out its troops from Qatar is firstly disrespectful behaviour towards us,” he said in Istanbul.

Erdogan: We will continue to give all our support to Qatar

Noon on Sunday: Boris Johnson calls for Qatar embargo to be lifted 

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson backed the Emir of Qatar’s call for dialogue to resolve the ongoing diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

He said: ”I welcome the Emir of Qatar’s commitment to combat terrorism in all its manifestations, including terrorist financing.

“The Emir also pledged to resolve the remaining differences with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain through dialogue, negotiation, and Kuwaiti mediation.

“These steps will help to resolve the dispute.

“We hope that in turn Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain respond by taking steps towards lifting the embargo. This will allow substantive discussions on remaining differences to begin.

“The UK will continue to engage our partners in the region to help them reach a solution, including assisting Kuwait’s important efforts in whatever way we can.”

Friday: Emir of Qatar calls for dialogue to resolve Gulf crisis 

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, called for dialogue to end what he described as an unjust “siege” on Qatar.

He said: “The time has come for us to spare the people from the political differences between the governments.”

In a televised speech, he rejected accusations made by the four Gulf states that Qatar is financing extremist groups and supporting terrorism.

He said: ”Qatar is fighting terrorism relentlessly and without compromise, and the international community recognises this.”

In response, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Relations Anwar al-Gargash tweeted that while dialogue is necessary, Qatar must review its policies because repeating its previous positions only “deepens the crisis”.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was satisfied with Qatar’s efforts to implement an agreement to combat terrorist financing, and urged Arab states to lift the “land blockade”.

The situation in Qatar will soon become like Yemen unless the siege is ended

July 22, 2017

Opinion — Letter

The Independent 

I applaud The Independent for drawing much needed attention to the worsening humanitarian crisis in war-ravaged Yemen.

This poor country is in the grip of man-made cholera; is sitting on the cusp of famine, malnutrition, severe shortages of food, medicine, clean water and livestock. This war has weakened the Yemeni people, rendered them more impoverished and susceptible to diseases, acted as a breeding ground for radical extremism and terrorism and resulted in an economic collapse and crumbling health systems, with no end in sight to peoples’ miseries. Warring factions and their backers are responsible for stoking the embers of war and hatred for mere financial gains “the merchants of war”.

It is also imperative to remember the besieged people in Qatar. Unlike Yemen, Qatar is a wealthy country with massive oil and gas reservoirs. However, its unwarranted siege would have severe repercussions for families, students, the elderly, the infirm and the sick. Qatar has always believed in dialogue and diplomacy as a way out of this conflict. The global community cannot remain impervious to the anguish and suffering of people. It is time to demonstrate the wisdom of diversity, constructive engagement and diplomacy during times of adversity.

Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2


Qatar emir calls for negotiations to ease Gulf boycott

July 22, 2017

BBC News

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, 2017
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani condemned a “malicious smearing campaign” – Reuters

The emir of Qatar has called for negotiations to ease a boycott by four powerful Arab neighbours.

In his first public address since the crisis erupted, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said any solution must respect Qatar’s sovereignty.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar in June over its alleged support for terrorism and ties with Iran, and issued a series of demands.

Qatar denies aiding terrorists.

In his television address, the emir condemned a “malicious smearing campaign” against Qatar and praised the resilience of its people.

“As you know, life in Qatar life goes on normally,” he said.

But he said “the time has come for us to spare the people from the political differences between the governments”.

“We are open to dialogue to resolve the outstanding problems,” so long as Qatar’s “sovereignty is respected”, the emir said.

The restrictions put in place by the four Arab nations have forced the gas-rich emirate to import food by sea and air to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have now backed down from a list of 13 specific demands they made last month. They included shutting down the Al Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base, cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading relations with Iran.

Instead they say they want Qatar to accept six broad principles before they lift the restrictions. These include commitments to combat terrorism and extremism, and to end acts of provocation and incitement.

Giles Trendle of Al Jazeera: “We’re not partisan to any particular group or ideology or government”

Qatar has not responded directly to the latest demands. It has previously refused to agree to any measures that threaten its sovereignty or violate international law, and denounced the “siege” imposed by its neighbours.

In Friday’s address, the emir thanked Kuwaiti mediators who have been trying to resolve the crisis.

Earlier this week, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem al-Hashimi said: “At this stage, the ball is in Qatar’s court.”

Qatar has acknowledged providing assistance to Islamist groups designated as terrorist organisations by some of its neighbours, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. But it has denied aiding jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda or Islamic State (IS).


Tillerson Faces Tough Gulf Talks on Ending Qatar Row — “Tillerson has, since the beginning of the crisis, appeared to be taking the Qatari side”

July 12, 2017

DUBAI — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faces an uphill task in persuading four Arab states to end a boycott of Qatar in talks on Wednesday after the four labeled a U.S.-Qatar terrorism financing accord an inadequate response to their concerns.

Any resolution of the dispute has to address all the key concerns of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, including Doha’s undermining of regional stability, a senior UAE official said ahead of the talks in Saudi Arabia.

The four countries imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, accusing it of financing extremist groups and allying with the Gulf Arab states’ arch-foe Iran, charges Doha denies. The four states and Qatar are all U.S. allies.

Tillerson will meet his counterparts from the four countries in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah to advance efforts to end the worst dispute among Gulf Arab states since the formation of their Gulf Cooperation Council regional body in 1981.

Shortly after Tillerson signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday in Doha on combating the financing of terrorism, the four countries issued a statement labeling it inadequate.

They also reinstated 13 wide-ranging demands they had originally submitted to Qatar but had later said were void.

The 13 include curbing ties to Iran, closing Al Jazeera TV, closing a Turkish military base in Qatar and the handing over of all designated terrorists on its territory.


The four boycotting states said in a joint statement they appreciated U.S. efforts in fighting terrorism.

“… (but) such a step is not enough and they will closely monitor the seriousness of Qatar in combating all forms of funding, supporting and fostering of terrorism,” the statement said, according to UAE state news agency WAM

Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the dispute was rooted in an absence of trust and that any solution must address the four states’ grievances.

“Diplomacy must address Qatar’s support for extremism and terrorism and undermining regional stability. A temporary solution is not a wise one,” he wrote on Twitter overnight.

“We have a unique opportunity to change (Qatar’s support for terrorism). This is not four Gulf states feuding.”

The United States worries the crisis could impact its military and counter-terrorism operations and increase the regional influence of Iran, which has been supporting Qatar by allowing it to use air and sea links through its territory.

Qatar hosts Udeid Air Base, the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East, from which U.S.-led coalition aircraft stage sorties against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Some Gulf Arab media took a critical stance towards Tillerson ahead of his visit to Jeddah.

“What makes Wednesday’s meeting in Jeddah difficult is that Tillerson has, since the beginning of the crisis, appeared to be taking the Qatari side,” a commentary published in Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat and Arab News newspapers said on Wednesday.

“Tillerson cannot impose reconciliation, but he could reduce the distance between the parties in the diplomatic rift — all of which are his allies — rather than taking the side of one against the other,” wrote columnist Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the former general manager of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya channel.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Gareth Jones)

U.S., Qatar Sign MOU on Combatting Terrorism, Financing

July 11, 2017

DUBAI — The United States and Qatar signed an agreement on combatting terrorism and its financing during a visit to Doha by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his senior adviser R.C. Hammond told reporters.

“Qatar and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding between the two counties outlining future efforts Qatar can take to fortify its fight against terrorism and actively address terrorism funding issues,” he said.

“This is a hopeful step forward,” Hammond added.

(Reporting By Dubai newsroom; Editing by Hugh Lawson)


(Contains links to all previous related articles)



Rex Tillerson: Qatari position in Gulf row ‘reasonable’

US secretary of state, while visiting Doha, says Qatar’s views in Gulf crisis have been clear and ‘very reasonable’.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (2-R) in Doha, Qatar July 11, 2017. REUTERS – Tom Finn

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Doha that the Qatari government had “reasonable” views in the month-old diplomatic crisis with Arab neighbours.

“I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions, and I think those have been very reasonable,” Tillerson said after his arrival in Doha on Tuesday.

The quartet accuse Qatar of funding “terrorism”, an accusation Qatar rejects as “baseless”.

Tillerson is holding talks with Qatar’s emir and foreign minister on the second leg of his four-day trip to the Gulf to help seek a resolution to the crisis.

Tillerson first meet with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, before holding talks with Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

READ MORE: Rex Tillerson holds talks with Qatar emir, FM in Doha

The visit to Doha follows a meeting with the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and other senior Kuwaiti officials on Monday.

“We are trying to resolve an issue that concerns not just us but the whole world,” Sheikh Sabah told Tillerson.

On Wednesday, Tillerson will meet the foreign ministers of the countries leading the boycott against Qatar – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – in Jeddah.

US officials said Tillerson does not expect an immediate breakthrough, which they warned could be months away.

Rather, they said, he wants to explore possibilities for sparking negotiations.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the country.

On June 22, they issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country, as a prerequisite to lift the sanctions.

Doha rejected the demands and the countries now consider the list “null and void”.

Kuwait is still trying to mediate the dispute.

The US has been supporting Kuwait’s mediation efforts, but Tillerson’s trip marks a new level of US involvement.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis – All the latest updates

Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Kuwait City, said Tillerson was basically visiting each side to “take the temperature in this dispute”.

“After some initial missteps from the White House, in which the president seemed to take sides with the Saudis and their allegations, the US’ position now is to try to shore up the Kuwait efforts to mediate the crisis and to try to bring some pressure from Washington, if it’s appropriate,” she said.

Senior Tillerson adviser R.C. Hammond said the package of demands, as issued by Qatar’s neighbours, was not viable, but said there were individual items on the list “that could work”.

Hammond would not elaborate on which demands Qatar could meet, but said concessions from the others would be required.

“This is a two-way street,” he said of a dispute among parties who each have been accused of funding “extremists” in some way. “There are no clean hands.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies