HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: Very well, as for the position of the United States of America regarding the situation in the Gulf, from the beginning, there was a request for dialogue. There is also an active role played by the US Secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson, because he has been authorized by the President to facilitate dialogue between the blockading countries and Qatar, and he is leading those efforts. He is very active and has talked about this crisis many times, and there have been statements requesting a reduction in escalation and demanded through them that all countries be engaged in dialogue. Qatar responded in a positive way, and we urge that these measures be followed. The President called His Highness the Emir during the beginning of this crisis, and they were determined to solve the problem yesterday. The phone call was important, but we hope that the blockading states will respond in a progressive and positive way to put an end to this crisis.
Question: My name is Rima. I speak Arabic, I will talk in the English language, and I will ask questions in the English language. I work at a German media agency: Can you summarize the problems of the four states in four words? And what is the most important thing you’ve received from Kuwait? And what is the most difficult knot? Some say your relationship with Iran, others say the issue of terrorism, and a third talks about your relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood.
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: Thank you for your questions. Regarding the allegations, the allegations were public; the legitimate complaint are non-existent because the blockading countries have not provided any compelling evidence that Qatar undermines the security of these states, and interferes in their affairs as claimed. And, there is also the matter of the relationship with Iran. 96% of the trade relationship goes through the UAE. As for Qatar, its rank is fifth in terms of the economic relationship with Iran. Of course Qatar withdrew its ambassador from Iran as solidarity with the Saudis when their diplomatic mission was targeted in several cities in Iran, and Qatar returned its ambassador because the matter was no longer an issue. As you know, the states that we stood by are now imposing a blockade on us, and because of that we wanted to rely on Iran because it plays an essential and active role. The other matter or the other accusation, and the third that is tied to supporting terrorism, and is trying to boost momentum through the West, so that the West would emphasize with them, and claims that Qatar supports terrorism. However, the West knows Qatar, and did not respond to these demands, and was not convinced by these accusations. Qatar plays an essential role in the alliance or in combatting terrorism, and we play an essential role in combatting terrorism because we confront it in different fronts. As for the other accusations that claim Qatar supports different political organizations, and this is of course part of the propaganda of those states that say Qatar interferes in their internal affairs. There is no such thing. Qatar does not interfere in the affairs of another country, and we don’t accept any interference from any country in our internal affairs. As for the blockading countries, they are the ones who started this crisis, and are demanding regime change, and they are the ones who interfere in the affairs of other countries, and they provoke people and incite them to violence. These are the same accusations they accuse us of and they don’t have any evidence, but their problem with Qatar is the following: these states don’t want another opinion. We in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreed on principles, and we have policies that we have agreed upon, but every state has its sovereignty, and it has a certain political margin.
What I mean by that is that they don’t overstate the security of other countries and we will not exceed this margin, and we did not exceed any limits that undermine the security of the Gulf States. We were active with our relations with other nations, those countries don’t accept other opinions, and this is the difficult knot, and this is the problem. That is why they accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, and they see every adversary as a supporter of terrorism. Maybe they view Qatar as a terrorist state because we have different views, but this is not the case in civilized countries. We accept other opinions, and we have discussions with others, and we have discussions with those who have different opinions, so that we can all reach common ground together.
Question: Do you really believe that because of this crisis the GCC can be fully dismantled? The second question is: Now is the Hajj season, and you were talking about the Kuwaiti mediation. Did you want to talk about some religious leaders, so that they can try to reach reconciliation between the countries through their roles?
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: Regarding the GCC; it is an important institution concerned with interstates security between countries, Qatar was and is still committed to the GCC as an institution. As for these countries, they have behaved in a way that suits only them, and they don’t represent the GCC states through this crisis. They are one of the dangers to the council through this crisis because they have violated the basic principles of the GCC, and those states committed a hostile action against another state without resorting to mechanisms according to the charter of the GCC, they did not follow any civilized approach in this regard. In fact, they committed a hostile action. We trust in this council, but will the trust and its levels remain as they are: I say no. There are guarantees that we must reach in order to strengthen the sovereignty of every state that strengthens this council. It must be a cooperative network and not a framework where we are dictated to you from a big state or any other country. As for the role of the religious leaders, unfortunately, the behavior of Saudi authorities allow people to perform Hajj or those authorities responsible for performing Hajj are not at the required level. We have tried to follow different ways, offer different channels, so that Hajj will be easier for the citizens, but the Saudi authorities decided to go in a different way, which did not go through Kuwaiti mediation. Of course we respect the Kuwaiti mediation, and the Saudi authorities used different ways in order to reach political goals internally within Qatar by allowing people and deceiving people, and talk about how people can perform Hajj but through their way, through their channels, and not through official Qatari channels, and not through the Qatari Hajj delegation. Any Qatari who arrives in Mecca in order to perform Hajj must be aware the Saudi authorities will be responsible for his or her safety, because the authorities in Qatar were not allowed to reassure Qataris and ensure their safety, and that is why we don’t see a positive role for the religious class in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, some have justified what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has done, and have justified the blockade Saudi Arabia imposed on Qatar. We of course request that politics be separated from religious issues, and they must follow these measures.
Question: I will allow myself to talk about another issue; I will talk about the Kafala (sponsorship) system. I understand Qatar claims the decision related to the Kafala system has been changed and dropped by resolution 21/2015, and there is an appeals committee, and there is a topic related to entry and exit problems. Therefore, when this law gets applied, my question is this: Are there any conflicts here, and are some people banned from leaving, and will you dismantle this system because of its impact on leaving?
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: Regarding the Kafala system and the decision or law of 21/2015, the law that governs the relationship between the workers and their sponsors, this law will change and will become contractually concerned with the terms of the relationship between the parties, and that is the essential principle. As for the exit permit, which was previously included in the Kafala system, and was included under the old law. The difference between the old law and the new one, is that the new law deals with financial claims or criminal proceedings that have been proven against the workers and can prevent them from going out. The new system is always reviewed; this is not a fixed law. This is a gradual move. We are testing this system, and we will see the level of its results, but there are reforms coming and will be issued regarding the exit permit.
Question: Qatar requests dialogue, and I met Mr Al-Jubeir five weeks ago and he said that the dialogue occurred in 2014, and that an important agreement had been signed by Qatar and the Gulf States, and the problem here is that Qatar did not respect that agreement and kept individuals on terror lists. Of course, you have a different opinion, and there is also a demand for Al-Jazeera’s closure. What is your response?
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: With my immense respect to my colleague in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I believe that the violators of the Riyadh agreement in 2014 should be blamed because there is a clear article stating: If there is a dispute over any provision of the agreement, there is a mechanism that we must address to address these alleged violations, and there are measures that must be taken in order to reach a solution. If they weren’t resolved, there are additional measures under the umbrella of the GCC charter. The violators are not Qatar, but it is the other countries that have flouted that agreement, and did not respect these statements. As for the matter of the accusations and their relation to terrorism, these are vague accusations that countries are trying to blame on Qatar, and it accuses a state and any state that opposes them as a terrorist country. We have always committed to the agreement, and we have always committed to any decision from the Security Council. Of course, the terror list is the list of the Security Council now, which was adopted by all states in accordance with international law. Therefore, it can’t be said that we harbor terrorists, and there cannot be another list listing terrorist names, because the list is for the Security Council, and we believe they added names to placate other countries, and they don’t think these names are really names for terrorists. These people were in fact not terrorists in the past, and maybe tied by relations or some of them, but they are present in Qatar, and they were added to terror lists.
Question: What are the results of this siege? And how do you envision the worst situations?
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: Yes, with regards to the mechanisms or results of the blockade, the matter is related to the human condition because there are families, and families have been ripped apart and this has of course led to pressure from various organizations. However, reunion requires the submission of a request, and this request is linked to an evaluation and then a decision. In addition, there is a control of the movement of Qatari citizens, and they are tied by relationships with citizens from the blockading countries, and this is what drives the Qatari government. The other matter is changing air routes and economic results. There are minor effects, but we believe that there is an international organization which must be respected, and we are striving to take different measures for different products so as to overturn the situation through the International Aviation Organization. We are working and adjusting world trade, and therefore there are minor economic effects. As for displaying the case to others, the matter is tied to two factors. When I go to a brotherly nation or a friendly nation, I must wipe the dust from the foggy picture because these countries have been friendly countries for a long time. I wanted to explain the picture to make it clear, and to therefore show the story from our side, and to refute those accusations. As you know, I wanted to talk about Qatar being attacked by these countries, and it did not start this crisis, and we expect the blockading countries to respect international law, and to request a reduction of tensions, reducing escalation, to reach dialogue, and that is our consistent position from the beginning. The second factor from our visit is that we strive to turn challenges into opportunities, in order to expand the loop of different relationships. Qatar was and is still an important source of energy, and we export energy to all parts of the world, and our contracts naturally result in our commitment. We wanted to reassure other countries, and to say that we are continuing our efforts in these relations despite the crisis. We want to keep this confidence and its levels as they were, and we want to reassure these countries and say that our capabilities remain as they are. We also want to expand the circle of cooperation, because Qatar used to depend on countries that provided supplies, but the surrounding countries have become volatile in their actions with us. Thus, any political circumstance could affect the decisions of those economic countries. Therefore, we must separate economics from politics, and of course there is hypocrisy in this regard, where some countries say that all countries should use the seas and the marine environment, but at the same time impose restrictions on Qatar.
Question: One of the fundamental points of contention relates to your relationship with Iran. Can you describe what your assessment of Iran is? Do you consider Iran a threat to the security of the region and a supporter of terrorism? What about the economic context or aspect? Because we know the Gulf countries are tied by economic relations with Iran.
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: As for our relationship with Iran, first; Iran is a neighboring country in the Arabian Gulf. We cannot change our geography. This is a geographic reality. Whenever we had differences with a neighboring country, we have to deal with it in a civilized manner in order to address these concerns. Yes, we have differences with Iran which concerns conflicts or regional conflicts, but we should aim to launch a dialogue in which we ensure that the security of the two sides is safe for two parts of a secure Arabian Gulf. Qatar and Iran share borders and a gas field, and this relationship is a natural one. In addition, there are many factors that encourage both sides, and I am not just talking about Qatar, but I am talking about the Gulf States on one side and Iran from another side, so that these countries engage in serious dialogue so that we can all protect our interests. Therefore, this policy was adopted by not only Qatar, but in December 2016, all of the Gulf States committed to this, and this effort was led by the Emir of Kuwait during that time. Furthermore, no country can accuse Qatar of having a special policy with Iran because these decisions were adopted by all of the GCC. As I mentioned before, 96% of the bilateral trade relations between the UAE and Iran are enforced or controlled by the UAE. As for us, we occupy the fifth rank, and Bahrain holds the sixth rank. Now there is a blockade, and of course in the UAE we are not permitted to trade in the free region, and as for the only transit line, we follow it by different alternatives like Pakistan, Oman, and Iran. Therefore, Iran can help us with Pakistan and Oman through the transit lines or the supply lines, and this is of course not linked to a violation of international law, and this is a natural relationship, and we hope that one day the Gulf States and Iran will all live in security and peace, and that we can solve all crises. This is because all the differences are differences between Qatar and the Gulf States from one side and Iran from another side. We must therefore seize the opportunity to re-establish stability in the region, because this region can’t go into another phase of destabilization, and I think the talks about Iran will lead to another crisis while we have crises spreading in front of us every day, and we have been unable to put a stop to it. Therefore, we don’t need another crisis. We have the crisis in Yemen and the crisis in Syria, and I think the Gulf States will put an end to these two crises to prevent another crisis with a neighboring country.
Question: The states that are imposing the blockade or the boycott on Qatar, criticize Qatar and say that Qatar is trying to come up with alternatives to resolve the crisis. Do you think that the suitable solution might be through a mediating country or through a Gulf-Kuwaiti solution?
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: Yes, Qatar has respected the Kuwaiti mediation, and I spoke about this publicly. We were the first to respect the Kuwaiti mediation. As for the blockading countries, they did not even remember the Kuwaiti mediation until weeks after the blockade. When it comes to Qatar, if you go back to the records, you will find that Qatar communicated with the international community after trying to resolve this crisis, and tried to leave the doors of other countries. We don’t believe in prolonging conflict, we believe in the GCC, and the GCC must be a platform that contains our problems. But Qatar did not commit a hostile action against those countries, these countries were the ones who started it, and they are the ones who did not respect the charter of the GCC. When Qatar started to talk about respecting international law and respecting the sovereignty of countries, that means we failed in resolving the problem through the framework of the GCC because of the blockading countries lack of respect for the council itself. As for the Kuwaiti mediation, it is required that the blockading countries respond to the Emir of Kuwait after he sent his letter three weeks ago, and these countries never responded to that letter at all.
Furthermore, when the matter is linked to respect and dilemmas, I think those countries should look at themselves and to look at their behavior, because those countries have failed to explain any evidence against Qatar.
Question: Your Excellency, I would like to congratulate you-Eid Mubarak. Do you see any successive steps that the parties can follow so that we can put an end to this crisis because we understand that reaching a settlement is out of the question. My second question is what is the impact of this crisis on your relationship with the Syrian folder, and supporting the Syrian opposition?
HE Minister of Foreign Affairs: Eid Mubarak, and thank you for asking these questions. I hope that the steps that must be taken for this crisis are clear steps, and the Kuwaiti mediator expressed this since the beginning, and the United States of America expressed it when it provided the road map. The blockading countries demand unconditional dialogue, and impose conditions on Qatar, and they request another demand, and that is that Qatar must commit to the six Cairo principles, then the 13 demands, then they talk about dialogue and then they talk about demands, and then they talk about principles. But what we say in Qatar is that a blockade was imposed on us and it is a blockade that has no basis, and it is an illegal blockade. But, the blockading countries have a different view and therefore we must reach dialogue so that we can put an end to the crisis. This is the road map and this is how we see it, and this is the position of Qatar which we have been stating since the beginning. We have expressed this matter, and we said that Qatar is willing to engage in dialogue with the blockading countries, but they must respect the sovereignty of our country, and they must respect international law, they must distance themselves from dictations, and we must reach a solution of compromise, and the solution must not be dictated upon. As for Qatar’s policy in Syria, it will remain the way it is. Justice must be served, and the Syrians must decide who will lead them. Al-Assad or anyone else who committed war crimes in Syria must be held accountable. Regarding the opposition and the work that Qatar carried out, Qatar carries out this work through the organization Friends of Syria, and through other means. Some of them are from the blockading countries, and we are continuing with that work and contributing to that effort. So we must reach a consensus. Qatar can continue with this work and if those countries don’t approve, then we will continue, and of course there are crimes that have been committed against the Syrian people, and therefore we are committed to the mechanism of prosecution and accountability mechanism and we will continue with this line.
Thank you for this open dialogue and thank you for your openness. I had some notes from your conversation. I think we are on the same boat. Your basic priorities are stability in the region, committing to international agreements and also committing to the GCC, and that was repeated many times. Above all, the road must remain connected. I thank you for your open mindedness and for your openness to the answers, and I thank you all.