Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has described the recent blockade by a Saudi-led group of Arab countries against Doha as “a pre-planned smearing campaign.” In his first speech since four Arab countries severed ties with Doha, the Qatari emir slammed the move as an act of aggression against Doha’s foreign policy.
“Its planners planted statements to mislead public opinion and the countries of the world,” Reuters quoted him as saying in a live TV address on Friday. The quartet comprising Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties and cut all land, sea, and air routes with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism — an allegation denied by Doha.
They later issued a list of 13 sweeping demands for Doha to meet in order for the relations to be normalized. Based on the list, Doha was asked to end its support for Egypt’s biggest banned opposition party Muslim Brotherhood, shut down Al Jazeera, close down a Turkish military base on its soil, limit its ties with Iran and “compensate” the sanctioning countries for unspecified harm.
Qatar has dismissed the 13-point list, saying the terms are mere tall orders, and that it will not engage in any crisis resolution talks unless the siege is lifted. In the Friday speech, Sheikh Tamim expressed dismay over terror allegations by the Saudi-led bloc against Qatar and warned that such charges would harm the war on terror.
The Qatari emir, however, expressed readiness to settle the dispute through dialogue, saying, “We are open to dialogue to find solutions to lingering problems within the framework of respect for the sovereignty and will of each.” Sheikh Tamim further noted that life was proceeding normally in Qatar despite what he described as a “siege.”
The remarks came hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed satisfaction over Qatar’s efforts to implement a deal to combat terror financing, and urged the four states to lift their “land blockade.”
On Thursday, Qatar announced a decree which defined terrorists, terrorist crimes, and the financing of terrorism. The televised speech also comes two days before a planned visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has backed Doha during the crisis, to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to find a solution to the crisis.