Wednesday 13 December 2017

No-one has right to 'blockade' my country, says Qatar foreign minister

Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani speaks to journalists (Bilal Hussein/AP)
Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani speaks to journalists (Bilal Hussein/AP)
Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, left, meets with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (KUNA via AP)
The Emir of Kuwait, right, meets UAE vice president and prime minister of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (WAM/AP)

Qatar's top diplomat has struck a defiant tone, saying no-one gave Arab nations the right to "blockade" his energy-rich country, and that the campaign by Saudi Arabia and its allies to isolate Qatar is based on "false and fabricated news".

Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, speaking during an interview with the Associated Press, repeatedly denied his country funded extremists and rejected the idea of shutting down its Al-Jazeera satellite news network.

He said Qatar as an independent nation also had the right to support groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, despite its neighbours outlawing the Sunni Islamist group.

Sheikh Mohammed's hard line mirrored that of a top Emirati diplomat who told the AP on Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates believes "there's nothing to negotiate" with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and other countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar earlier this week and cut off air, sea and land travel to the peninsular nation.

Kuwait's emir is working to mediate the Gulf crisis around Qatar, which is home to a major US military base and the host of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

"If anyone thinks they are going to impose anything on my internal affairs or my internal issues, this is not going to happen," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Worried residents have responded to the crisis by emptying grocery stores in the Qatari capital Doha, as Saudi Arabia has blocked trucks carrying food from entering the country across its only land border.

Its flag carrier Qatar Airways now flies increasingly over Iran and Turkey after being blocked elsewhere over the Middle East.

Emirati officials also shut down the airline's offices in the UAE on Wednesday.

Al-Jazeera offices have been shut down by authorities in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Meanwhile, Turkey's parliament approved sending troops to an existing Turkish base in Qatar as a sign of support.

US President Donald Trump, who tweeted on Tuesday about Qatar funding extremists, called Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Wednesday and offered to host leaders at the White House to resolve the crisis.

Sheikh Mohammed told the AP that Sheikh Tamim "is not going to leave the country while the country is in blockade", in effect turning down the offer of mediation.

An Emirati writer and ruling family member suggested Qataris are already looking for new leadership in the tiny country.

Qatar has yet to receive any list of demands from the Arab countries that have cut ties, Sheikh Mohammed said.

That is even after Kuwait's emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah flew to Qatar to discuss the crisis with officials.

AP

Press Association

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