Qatar's foreign minister on Wednesday accused four Arab neighbours, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain of "clear aggression" against his country as his counterparts met in Cairo to weigh further measures against the Gulf country.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani said charges cited by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt in cutting diplomatic and transport links a month ago "were clearly designed to create anti-Qatar sentiment in the west". The four Arab states broke off diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of aiding terrorism.
Qatar denies the charges.
The rift between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours has aroused deep concern among Western allies who see the region's ruling dynasties as key partners in energy and defence. US President Donald Trump urged a resolution to the Qatar diplomatic crisis in a telephone call on Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, the White House said.
"Qatar continues to call for dialogue despite the violation of international laws and regulations, despite the separation of 12,000 families, despite the siege that is a clear aggression and an insult to all international treaties, bodies, and jurisdictions," Thani said at a press conference at London's Chatham House think-tank.
Blockade driven by Saudi and UAE
"We believe that this entire campaign is merely driven by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and these are the countries that we need to engage to find out what are the real problems and what are the real grievances," Thani said.
"Reading between the lines, the blockading countries were demanding that we have to surrender our sovereignty to end the siege, something which ... Qatar will never do," he said.
The Qatari minister suggested he saw little hope of a rapid reconciliation and that his country was preparing for a more protracted rift.
"What we've done in the last few weeks is develop different alternatives to ensure the supply chain for the country is not cut off."
He looked ahead to the soccer world cup that Qatar does not host until 2022. "Even if the blockade is lifted, we have to rely on ourselves and ensure we deliver a World Cup that is attractive to the world."
Responding to the accusation that it was now too close to regional rival Iran, he said Doha had to live alongside Tehran since the two states shared a gas field.
As Sheikh Mohammed spoke, foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain on Wednesday were meeting in Cairo to consider Qatar's response to 13 demands they have made in return for ending sanctions.
The Arab countries demands include Qatar curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the pan-Arab al Jazeera TV channel, closing down a Turkish military base and downgrading its ties with regional arch-rival Iran.
Qatari officials say the Gulf states' demands are so stiff they suspect they were never seriously meant for negotiation.
The sanctions have clearly taken a toll. Thani said shipping costs were now ten times higher as a result.
But Qatar has also made clear that it is preparing for a more protracted dispute.
Doha announced on Tuesday it planned to raise Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) production capacity by 30 percent in the next five years.
If its response to the demands fails to satisfy the Arab states meeting in Cairo, Qatar could be isolated or excluded from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional economic and security cooperation body founded in 1981.