DOHA – Qatar has said “it’s not ready to surrender” as the diplomatic stranglehold placed on the tiny oil-rich country by its neighbors intensifies.
The defiant statement came as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain released a document Thursday listing organizations and people they allegedly had links to Qatar and supported terrorism. The UAE also banned all flights from the Qatari capital Doha from entering its airspace.
“The State of Qatar has never seen such hostility, not even from a hostile state,” a Foreign Ministry statement said Thursday.
“…Qatar is not ready to surrender and will not compromise on the independence of its foreign policy,” it added.
Qatar said the list of terror-related groups and individuals released by the four Arab countries was “baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact,” asserting that “Qatar strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms. We do not, have not and will not support terrorist groups.”
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the crisis threatened the stability of the entire region but said that he didn’t expect any “military escalation.” Diplomacy was his “preferred choice.”
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry also said that the arrival of Turkish forces, an existing agreement brought forward this week as a result of the crisis, would benefit the security of the whole region, adding that it expected no change in the mandate of the US military base in the country.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates this week broke off relations with Qatar, — a country of nearly 2.3 million people, mostly foreign workers, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Yemen and the Maldives also cut ties with Qatar. The list later expanded to nine, with the addition of Mauritius, Mauritania and Libya’s eastern-based government.
Qatar dismissed the accusations as “unjustified” and “baseless.”
Hackers are are also targeting Al Jazeera’s websites and other digital platforms, the Qatar-based media company said on Thursday. It described the cyberattacks as “systematic and continual” but said the attackers had not been successful so far.
Qatar is rich in oil and gas but it doesn’t really produce its own food — almost all of it comes from Saudi Arabia. Qatar said that Iran had expressed its willingness to supply the country with food and would allocate three of its ports for this purpose.
Qatari citizens have been told they have 14 days from Tuesday to leave Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, and those countries banned their own citizens from entering Qatar. Etihad, Emirates, Fly Dubai and Gulf Air have halted all flights in and out of Doha, the Qatari capital.
In a statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was deeply concerned about the situation and offered support in resolving the crisis via diplomatic channels.
Gulf allies have repeatedly criticized Qatar for alleged support of the Muslim Brotherhood, a nearly 100-year-old Islamist group considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The UAE accused Qatar of “funding and hosting” the group in its statement announcing the severance of ties.
It also cited Qatar’s “ongoing policies that rattle the security and sovereignty of the region as well as its manipulation and evasion of its commitments and treaties” as the reason for its actions.
Qatar’s foreign minister has insisted his country was combating terror financing and “protecting the world from potential terrorists.” – CNN