Ending blockade should precede dialogue: Al-Attiyah

The blockade imposed on Qatar by four Arab states must be lifted before the country can engage in a dialogue, the Minister of State for Defence Affairs HE Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah has said.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of interfering in their affairs and supporting "terrorism". Qatar has rejected the charge.

Foreign diplomats have visited the region, urging dialogue to resolve the crisis that is now in its second month.

However, HE al-Attiyah said: "Lifting the siege should precede any dialogue".

"If the blockading countries remain reluctant to lift the siege, Qatar will be compelled to resort to the available international legal procedures to lift it," al-Attiyah said in an interview with Russia Today, excerpts of which was published by Qatar's official news agency QNA yesterday.

On the possibility of the American base moving to another country, al-Attiyah said that Qatar's ties with the United States were strong and Washington would not accept that. He noted that the Turkish military presence does not represent a source of sensitivity, noting that each side knows the importance of the other. He added that both sides know that their interests in Qatar cannot conflict.

"The US-Qatari relations are strong," he said, going on to deny that the "acceleration of the deployment of Turkish troops in Qatar was in anticipation of any military escalation against Doha".

"The Turkish and US military presence in Qatar doesn't pose any kind of sensitivity at all," he said, arguing that the Saudi-led group has relied in its escalation on US President Donald Trump's tweets.

He added that the despatch of Turkish forces coincided with the GCC crisis. He noted that all the weapon deals that Qatar has with different countries aimed to develop the Qatari army's defence ability, including the deal with the United States. He added that it wasn't rational for Qatar to buy arms that its military did not need.

On the tweets made by US President Donald Trump against Qatar following the Gulf crisis, al-Attiyah said that Qatar does not implement its policies based on social media or spontaneous tweets.

He stressed that the siege countries relied in their escalation on those tweets and forgot that the United States had institutions, with the US Department of State being one of the most important among them, that backed the Qatari position very honestly after it realised that the crisis was based on a hacking of Qatar News Agency (QNA).

"They forgot that the US is a country of institutions, the most important of which is the department of state, which has explicitly supported the Qatari’s position," he said.

Yesterday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan described his trip to the Gulf "productive and successful", following two days of talks that appeared to yield no immediate progress towards healing the rift.

"The visits on the Gulf tour were productive and successful," Erdogan told legislators from his ruling AK Party at a parliamentary meeting.

"The contacts we have made during this visit have been useful, and we will continue our efforts for the stability and peace of the region with increasing determination."

Turkey has been Qatar's most powerful ally in the dispute.

In his interview with RT channel HE al-Attiyah praised Russia's clear position that supports lifting the unjust siege imposed on Qatar.

Al-Attiyah said that the speech of His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was clear and comprehensive, laying a roadmap and telling the truth that many of the people knew but that some parties refuse to understand.

Al-Attiyah noted that the Emir intended to deliver a speech to the Qatari people and residents since the beginning of the crisis but opted to delay the speech to a suitable time at the request of Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, whose mediation is highly respected by the Qatari leadership.

He noted that the Emir's speech was a reminder of the principles and morals that the Qatari people were raised upon, such as avoiding misrepresentation and lying to citizens. The speech also focused on Qatar's commitment to enhancing bilateral ties with different countries.

The Emir, in his speech, also renewed Doha's invitation to the siege countries to hold a dialogue, which was what Qatar was keen on since day one of the crisis. The Minister noted that any future agreement must not infringe on the sovereignty of Qatar, and must be binding on all countries and not just Qatar.

On earlier remarks regarding Qatar having to participate in the Arab coalition in Yemen, al-Attiyah said that they believed the Yemeni crisis could be resolved politically without excluding any side. Despite that, Doha's participation was in accordance "with the principle of supporting brothers whether they were oppressed or oppressors". He denounced a statement made by one of the siege countries' ambassadors in Moscow who said that Qatar conspired against the Arab coalition. Al-Attiyah described the remarks as lacking the necessary experience to judge such military issues.

He added that Qatar admits that Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthis represented a threat to Saudi Arabia. He added that it was not possible to work with a side that had hidden agendas in Yemen, one that fights Ali Abdullah Saleh but at the same time provides shelter to his spoilt son on their land.

The Minister of State for Defence Affairs expressed his regret that Qataris were prevented from carrying out Umrah and faced obstacles in performing Haj, drawing parallels to preventing people of Al Quds from praying in Al-Aqsa mosque.

Al-Attiyah also expressed his appreciation for Iran's help to the Qatari people by opening up its airspace and providing food products. He noted that geography and partnership in oil and gas sector make it inevitable for Qatar to co-operate with Tehran, which also has strong ties with some of the siege countries.

He noted that democracy in Qatar has many facets. He stressed that ties between the ruler and the people in the state have a special nature that guarantees the Qatari people all their rights, starting with freedom of expression.

Al-Attiyah said that one of the facets of freedom of expression was the enforcement of systems and laws. He added that this led the siege countries to wrongly believe that they can cause a division between the Qatari people and their leadership, forgetting that Doha guarantees its citizens the right to freedom of opinion.

As seen on GulfTimes  Image Credits GulfTimes