March 2nd 2018
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Given the fact that Women's Day is due in a few days, congratulations to all women and I really hope in similar settings we would be able to see more women.
Today's session is going to be a briefing. Our briefing is going to be mainly about the human rights violations in relation to the blockade of the State of Qatar. However, once I'm done with the briefing please feel free to ask any question whether it is related to the blockade, human rights or any questions about Qatar's foreign policy. However, if you have any questions about, for example, arts in Qatar I might not be the best person to ask but, I will do my best to answer and address any question.
In terms of where we stand in the blockade. As you know, on the 5th. Of June 2017, four Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt decided to impose a blockade - I should say an illegal blockade - on the State of Qatar. They have basically blocked the only land border we have. That's with Saudi Arabia. But, then they have blocked skies and the sea passages as well. To know the significance of that blockade, maybe I should just highlight the fact that 90% of the fresh food supplies we used to get that through the land borders from Saudi, around 90% of the medicine supplies we used to get from both Saudi and United Arab Emirates. And the blockade was imposed on us during the Holy Month of Ramadan. But, it was not only that; Qatari citizens in those countries were expelled. The citizens of the blockading countries on the other hand were not allowed, still not allowed, to enter Qatar with a few exceptions. So, they have to go through a process, for example, to prove that they have family members and relatives in Qatar to be able to get a permission from their countries to enter Qatar. Qatar did not retaliate with similar measures; just to give you one example: There are two hundred thousand Egyptians still working in Qatar despite the fact that Egypt is one of the blockading countries. Now in terms of where we stand economically, at this point we are beyond the blockade economically. Qatar was able – within almost 48 hours – to find alternative supply chains and alternative routes; both sky passages and sea passages. And we have established new passages through Oman, Kuwait, with India, with Pakistan and other countries as well. So, in terms of the economic impact, Qatar was able to show its resilience and to defuse, absolutely defuse, the impact of the blockade. As a matter of fact, despite all the measures, Qatar was still the fastest growing economy among the GCC countries and it is, of course, still the number one exporter of LNG globally, number one exporter of GTL gas to liquid globally and the second exporter of Helium again worldwide. So, Qatar's economy is in a very very good shape on that front. However, we still very much concerned about the blockade and the measures taken by those countries. And I would summarize this in basically three different dimensions.
The first dimension would be the human rights dimension, and this is what I'm going to address in the rest of this briefing. So, I will delay this a little bit.
The second dimension is basically the regional security of the region. The problem is this blockade. If you look at it in its context, it's one of a series of manufactured crises that were initiated by the same actors. We see an increasing polarization between different poles or countries and, unfortunately, Qatar is wedged in between those two countries. And, unfortunately, the kind of discourse in this polarization is very much a sectarian discourse and that's why we are very much concerned in Doha about this kind of discourse getting a momentum in our region. So, that's one dimension, but the other dimension is the GCC as a block. The GCC as a block was looked at, especially in the aftermath of Arab uprisings, as the stabilizing factor and the stable block in the region. Yet, those countries, unfortunately, managed to bring this instability to the GCC as a block. So, that's our main concern basically in terms of the regional security of the region. So, for the first dimension, why we are still concerned about the blockade despite our very good position when it comes to the economic dimension; that's because of : 1) human rights violations 2) the regional security and 3) would be the – what we call the back door tactics – of those blockading countries specifically the GCC blockading countries which wouldn't stop their lobbying efforts to distort Qatar's image, especially, in western countries; something were very much concerned with. Instead of them going through the proper diplomatic channels, they decided to resort to backdoor tactics and policies and they keep doing this.
There is also the tribal incitement. I'm not sure if you are aware of all the tribal festivals that a couple of those blockading countries decided to organize. So, and it is rather paradoxical in the sense that on the one hand they declare a very reforming agenda, but on the other hand they resort to pretty much primitive notions such as tribalism and sectarian discourse and so on and so forth. So, we are very much concerned about those shutting down completely, diplomacy and the political process. And on the other hand, using all those tactics including, by the way, the manipulation or the attempts to manipulate the Qatari currency – the Qatari Riyal – in some European countries. The central bank in Qatar is actually moving some sort of a legal prosecution against some of those institutions in some European countries; because they found evidence that these can be tied back to one of the blockading countries. One of the GCC blockading countries. So, the legal channels are being perused from Qatari side.
Now, if I may just now start talking about the human rights dimension which has been the theme of most of the meetings I believe last week. And H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar addressed the human rights council and just after that the blockading countries decided to issue a statement. Now, before I get into this sort of diatribe, let me go back to the basics and the origin of all of that. That's the High Commissioner Technical Report which was released in December, which looks specifically at the human rights violations that happened as a direct result of the blockade imposed by the quartet on the State of Qatar. Now, the technical mission visited Qatar between the 17th. Of November and the 24th. Of November. Interestingly enough, the blockading countries decided not to welcome the commission and their countries. So, the mission again once they finish with the report, they contacted the blockading countries. They said," you need to voice your opinion." They decided not to do so. And then the report was released. After releasing the report, the blockading countries decided to question the integrity of the mission, the integrity and the objectivity of that report and so on and so forth. And the question is: Why didn't they allow the mission in the first place to enter their countries to reflect their prospective as they put it?
Let me go through some of the violations and the conclusions of that report. So; the report documented 504 violations of the right to education. Qatar's students were expelled from universities in those countries. They also documented 1174 violations of the right to private property. The report documented – and again this is the High Commissioner Technical Report – 629 violations to the right of family reunification. And in this context, I should say that there are around 6500 mixed marriages between citizens in Qatar and citizens in the three GCC countries. So; those families are deprived from their basic right to be united in one country. And then there are 1261 violations of the right to movement. And if I may add here another paradox if you wish. That's some of the blockading countries claim to create free economic zones. Right; but then, as a direct result of the blockade, they decided to politicize that economic dimension depriving Qatari investors and Qatari businessmen from accessing properties and investments in those countries. As a result of this, the State of Qatar decided to form the National Committee for Compensations. They documented complaints through that committee, around 4500 complaints. Those are individuals that are unable to access their properties, are unable to access their investments in then blockading countries.
Now; in terms of the main conclusions – and this is very important – the report concluded that the measures taken during the blockade were unilateral i.e. Qatar did not retaliate with similar measures towards the individuals and the citizens of those countries. They concluded as well that the blockade was actually targeting the individuals, the citizens of Qatar rather than the government of Qatar. And that has been always their claim, but the technical report says otherwise. So, that's the second conclusion.
The third conclusion was that the measures taken against the State of Qatar amount to –it could be called an economic warfare. This is very important to notice. And in terms of their media, basically, the kind of discourse that exists in the three GCC blockading countries, media could be described, according to the report, as hate speech; inciting, not only against the State of Qatar as a government, but against the citizens of Qatar.
And how did the blockading countries decide to respond to this objective report? And as I said they were given the chance twice to respond and to reflect their opinion and twice they decided not to use that right. But, then how did hey react to that after publishing the report? Instead of addressing the issues and the facts and violations, they decided to describe this report as a biased report. And then, as usual, they resorted to a very politicized response to that instead of tackling the actual issues. And that was in December and January. But then, after the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs addressed the human rights council, they decided again to come up with a statement that's, once again, does not address the actual violations, here's how they describe the human rights violations and the report by the UN. They described this as a trivial issue that the international community shall not be concerned with. Now I'm not surprised at all because human rights are indeed a very trivial issue to those countries. No wonder, if you look at the individual record of each of these countries, the human rights violations are just massive; not against the citizens of Qatar, against their own citizens, journalists being jailed in those countries, their own citizens are receiving, I mean, they are being oppressed. There's no wonder at all that they are not concerned whatsoever with the violations against Qatari citizens, when it comes to the blockade. This is just normal to them but, of course for us, a violation against a single citizen means something and that's why we will strive until the end, until every Qatari citizen regain their rights and receive the proper compensation. and then, in their response after saying it's a trivial issue, they went on and said, " this is a diplomatic crisis that was initiated by Qatar". Now as far as I remember, on the 5th of June it was them who decided to cut off the ties with Qatar. As far as I remember, it was them who decided to close the only land boarder we have, through which we receive 90 percent of food products. So, this is a claim that is – to use the lightest term possible- is a misrepresentation of reality. But, they were not surprised that are misrepresenting reality because, may remind everyone that the pretext of the blockade happened in May when those countries planted a cyber-attack on the News Agency of Qatar fabricating statements; for this to be an excuse for them then to justify their blockade. So, misrepresentation of reality is really more or less a habit. It is becoming now more of a second nature. And then they emphasized, basically, that the only way out from this crisis is to go back to the Kuwaiti mediation. We see this as a good development and progress from their side. We are genuinely very glad that they are finally referring to the Kuwaiti mediation. And we call upon them to activate this to the Kuwaiti efforts to reconcile this dispute. As for us, in terms of where we stand from the Kuwaiti mediation, we have always welcomed this mediation. We very much respect the very proactive and positive role Kuwait has always played. As a matter of fact, the best manifestation to that, was in the GCC summit held in Kuwait as an attempt by the government of Kuwait to bring all the actors to the table, it was his Highness the Emir of Qatar, the only head of a state in this dispute that went there as a sign of respect to HH the Emir of Kuwait and a sign of respect to the Kuwaiti mediation. So, we welcome what the quartet said in their statement that they would like to resolve this through the Kuwaiti mediation and we urge them to take serious step towards that; and to respond to the various discourse that the Kuwaiti government has been sending to all parties to come back to the table of negotiations.
Now this more or less what I have in terms of the Human Rights report and where we stand from it and where we stand from the blockading and GCC and where we stand from the GCC crisis. If you had any Question please, let me know?
Hello, Martin Towel, Spanish News Agency: We may as we are in the middle of human rights council sessions, are we taking any steps in the general session presenting any declaration from a guest meeting you are holding, thank you.
Answer: Is it in terms of blockading itself?
In terms of blockade itself, I mean the session actually took place.
Answer: As you know the theme is more or less human rights violations so that has been addressed, this is in addition of course to the bilateral meetings as you mentioned.
Qatari diplomacy has been very active recently, last month in January, basically we held Qatari US. Dialogue in DC. There have been multiple trips also to different continents HH. The Emir went to east Africa, west Africa and Asia. There will be trips very soon to Europe as well and the European parliament so yes, Qatari diplomacy is very active in that front. Our focus now, as I said, economically speaking, we are beyond the point of the blockade so, we are looking forwards to strengthening our relations, bilateral relations with countries around the world. There have been multiple agreements signed with France, with the UK the US and many other countries as well.
Question: My name is Barry Kerri, freelance Journalist, I was wondering about to know the Panel that Qatar asked the WTO to establish because I think it you know it release the same question, but apparently Qatar has not been proceeding with the panel, could you comment on that?
Answer: Could clarify the question because I'm not catching your last word.
You Know WTO was asked by Qatar, to have a panel established to look into the sanction, but apparently it hasn't proceed, you know the panel has been established but Qatar had 20 days to answer, it had not done so yet in appointing a person . to be beyond the panel.
Answer: Fair enough, so let me to think beyond the perspective and give a better context to the point about the WTO, so Qatar is pursuing at multiple fronts, so, sort of legal steps and then I mentioned the compensation committee that was formed in Qatar so, the way will cater it that there are individuals that are affected, companies that were affected and agencies that were affected and each one of them would be pursuit through different channels in terms of the individuals rights, this now being pursuit through multiple venues the committee, the national community and then commission national solicitors to pursue that, but on the other hand you have national human rights committee as well, in terms of companies I think documentations processes is also taking sometime but more or less almost done in that front.
So, these things generally speaking take some time in terms of documentation to have all the evidences but then I can guarantee you that thing are moving forwards on that front.
_ Was there a Question?
Question: From Reuters News Agency Tom Milles :
Is there any expectation or hope for US mediation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, because Saudi Crown Prince is expected to visit US in late March and the Emir of Qatar in April. I think, so what are your hopes for that, what are the chances of mediation working. Thank you very much.
Answer: I mean our position from the very beginning we always welcomed any efforts. Of course, under the Kuwaiti mediation as well, to bridge the gap now president Trump actually called a couple of months ago or so, for all parties to go to Camp David and meet there. It was only Qatar who officially responded to that, they didn't receive a response from the other countries.
Now, what we know that this invitation was also, at least, verbally sent to all countries.
Qatar again welcomed the idea in terms of HH visit in April, it was already scheduled. But then again, any effort to bridge the gap are always welcomed it is truly depend on what the other side wants to do.
Question: Will it be, will the Emir be asking President Trump or secretary Tillerson to play some kind of role, I mean are you hopeful the US will provide that bridge and another question. How long do you think might go on?
Answer: Well, the most difficult part of your question and the easiest at the same time is the last part because it can last for years and it can be resolved within a month really, I mean with the pattern of the unpredictability that we have seen recently it is to forecast something you need history, a consistent history. We don't have that with the blockading countries that is very difficult to make an educated .. let us say prediction, in terms of the American role it has been very active secretary Tillerson visited the region, the GCC multiple times there have been various efforts to bridge the gap. A full call took actually place between HH the Emir of Qatar and prince Mohamed bin Salman. But then again, the Saudi side decided one hour after the full call, and both the Qatari side and American side issued statement, because it is a true American mediation, issued statement, the Saudi side decided to suspend the talks.
So, we very much appreciate all the efforts by all our friends including off course the USA secretary Tillerson was actually appointed specifically by president Trump to the main focal point to resolve this issue, but then again, I mean our neighbors unfortunately decided to drag it, so we will see.
QUESTION: Ahmed Shawki, Emirates News Agency, as you spoke, I have pointed many accusations against these countries, and these countries have accusations against Qatar. If Qatar is keen to sit on the negotiating table and ease the concerns raised by these countries, including what affects the national security of these countries. I can give you examples. I’ll give you an example I saw on Al-Jazeera, as soon as there was a hint in some newspapers that there was a Sudanese-Egyptian conflict, within a week, Al-Jazeera published a film on on Sudan and Egypt about Hala'ib and Shalateen. The actions of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, are clear, and all countries condemn it, all the Muslim Brotherhood leaders live in Qatar.
Therefore, if the State of Qatar is determined to resolve this dispute, why Qatar does not step forward and address these concerns.
My brother Ahmad: First, I am very happy that you are here and are asking this question, and I really wish that one of our brothers, indeed our brothers, from the blockading countries sit with us in this civilized meeting face to face, and discuss all these issues and concerns, in a civilized way, and we rebuttal it in a civilized way, instead of resorting to the other methods I mentioned and touched on earlier.
As a Qatari I cannot visit at least 3 of the Gulf countries, I cannot practice my right as a Muslim and visit to Mecca or Madinah, separated families etc.
In conclusion, I’m very very very happy that you asked these questions. I wish that our brothers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or Egypt would come and talk to us this way.
Now that I have said this, I move to your question and accusation. I will not call it an accusation because I don’t know you personally. you said that the blockading countries have observations about the State of Qatar, and we accept them in principle. But the State of Qatar has observations on the blockading countries, and a number of countries in the region have observations on the blockading countries. To the countries of the blockade, not least Lebanon and what happened to the Lebanese Prime Minister, not least what we see now in Yemen, not least what we see in many conflicts and interventions in the region. You also said that the State of Qatar intervenes in other countries through media, and if you go to a number of Arab countries, you will find that they have observations on the media in the blockading countries. The question not whether or not there are observations. The question is, what are the cultural and appropriate channels for dealing with these issues?
For example, when a channel such as Al-Jazeera broadcasts, and I see them represented here, I will not defend them. They defend themselves. But when Al-Jazeera broadcasts something, other media responds to this broadcast with other forms of coverage. We see this in all civilized countries, Europe and Britain And America, there are channels that lean towards the left and channels that lean to the right. They discuss issues in their proper context.
Now we come to another issue. For example, there may be observations of a political or a diplomatic nature, which are resolved in their political and diplomatic channels. There are observations of another nature, for example, economic, these are solved through their natural channels. What happened was in this crisis, was that the diplomatic channels were killed and slaughtered, and the non-political was politicized. For example, sports were politicized. Believe it or not, when a sports event takes place and a Qatari team plays, channels of some of the blockading countries stop their broadcast, or call the Qatar team the "other State" team. Therefore, if there are observations on the professionality of the blockading states’ media, Now, returning to the original idea: that the natural channels of communication were killed, like the diplomatic and political channels, and the non-political was politicized. Religion was politicized. When the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia comes out and declares in a statement that the blockade of Qatar is good for Qatar. Some of the blockading states claim they want a “secular” agenda in the region, they don’t want religion and politics to be mixed up, I find it rather paradoxical and ironic that they are using religious clergy and scholars to bash Qatar and their rivals in general. Returning to the issue, religion was politicized, politics were politicized, social relations were politicized. Thus, as the Arabs say, this is not how camels are supplied.
Regarding your other allegations, the charges against the State of Qatar, you mentioned an example about Egypt and Sudan, but the allegations claimed by the blockading states have double discourse. regionally, they talk about Qatar and Iran, to the West, Mr. Anwar Gargash, said in Chatham House, word by word, “this is not about Iran”, which is the opposite of what they say regionally. And claimed that this is about terrorism and all that, the point I mean is a double discourse, one for the Western audience, and the other for the domestic audience. For the domestic audience they claim the problem is relations Iran. For Westerner audience, they throw names like Hamas. Despite the fact that none of them consider Hamas as a terrorist organization. This contradiction in discourse is problematic. If their problem with the State of Qatar is the issue of terrorism, this issue has its own channels. This constant chance in discourse is problematic. Why, to this day, they have not been able to submit a single evidence to the Kuwaiti mediator or the American side that Qatar supports terrorism, moreover, Qatar has signed several agreements with a number of countries to combat terrorism. Moreover, after the Qatar US Strategic Dialogue, I invite you to read the text of the statement. The United States, the spearhead of the fight against terrorism for Daesh and others, says that Qatar is a partner in the fight against terrorism. if you cannot convince the American side, or the Kuwaiti side nor Europe. Even the countries that initially boycotted the state of Qatar, such as Chad and Senegal, have restored ties. So, in this matter, we know that these allegations are designed so that when you go to a Western country you win their empathy. All countries have now bypassed them, even countries that have decided to cut ties with Qatar such as Chad and Senegal have decided to restore diplomatic relations with Qatar.
Since you are a journalist, I have a question. Do you have the freedom to publish what I just said? I hope you send it to me if you do .
Question: Of course I have freedom. The part that was not answered by you, and as an Egyptian, there are tens of confessions by Muslim Brotherhood that they have planned terrorist attacks in Egypt, and Qatar is still hosting leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, you then come and say that the State of Qatar does not support terrorism. Before you explain this to me, explain it to the Egyptian people.
Answer: First, I emphasize a number of things, the Egyptian people have all the respect, Egypt, its history and its civilization has our respect. If you go back to all the statements of the officials in Qatar, I challenge you to find one statement that offends Egypt. In addition, there are 200,000 Egyptians who are still working in Qatar. In short, We have not done the same. Now with regards to the Muslim Brotherhood.
let me first say, Muslim Brotherhood leaders are not in Qatar, that's the first issue. The number of Muslim Brotherhood members in European countries exceeds the number of those in Arab countries. Britain has launched an investigation into the British parliament called the "Jenkins Report" Is the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group can be declared as a terrorist group? do you know what the findings were? That it cannot be classified as a terrorist group. I’m not speaking about Qatar here, I am talking about Britain. I do not know why you do not take such an stand against these countries knowing that there are a number of Muslim Brotherhood members in Britain and in European countries.
Let's look at the blockading countries, the Kingdom of Bahrain hosts members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are active politically and parliamentary. After we returned to English. Looking at other countries, the State of Kuwait, for example, does not see the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, there are members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Kuwaiti Parliament. Why are they only targeting Qatar in in this way? There are no leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in the State of Qatar. Not to mention Tunisia, it has Muslim Brotherhood members who participated in the Troïka, Morocco as well etc.
Journalist: Reuters again I have two questions. One is clarify that support you are giving to the armed groups in Syria financial, military and likewise and the other one is the peace talk between the Taliban and Afghan government in Qatar, what happened?
Answer: In terms of Syria, let me just reaffirm that Qatar supports Geneva "1" it has always supported that process from the very beginning.
In terms of Qatar's involvement in the process in Syria in general, it has been always aligned with the international community including the US, Turkey and other GCC countries including Saudi basically so, this is in terms of the general movement and where we stand today.
Now in terms of the way forward when it comes to Syria we are very much concerned with the military operations taking place now in Ghouta. It is just a catastrophic. It is tragic. And we call upon all parties to adhere to all of the UN calls just to cease this operation and stop it and allow some humanitarian aid to reach the Syrian people. The Syrian deserve definitely better than this. We call and we always called for transitional justice. This is very important. War criminals cannot be part of the future of Syria, otherwise we might be risking the possibility of seeing – as they and as I put it sometime, ISIS.
To build on that, just like ISIS did the grievance of the people , justice not taking its course might create a momentum in the future for extremist groups to build on that just like ISIS did and then resurge again.
In terms of Taliban, there isn't anything going on right now. We are always coordinating with the American side of that front as the request originally came from the American side. So, really no progress to report as we are talking now.