Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani is adamant there can be no talks until sanctions are lifted.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani is adamant there can be no talks until sanctions are lifted.

Qatar will not negotiate with Arab states that have cut economic and travel ties with it unless they reverse their measures, its foreign minister said, ruling out discussions over Qatar's internal affairs including Al Jazeera TV.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar had still not received any demands from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which severed relations two weeks ago, triggering the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.

The countries accuse Qatar of supporting militants and stirring up unrest, charges Doha denies.

"Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations," Sheikh Mohammed told reporters in Doha.

"Until now we didn't see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the precondition for anything to move forward."

He said Kuwait's ruler was the sole mediator in the crisis and that he was waiting for specific demands from Gulf states in order to take resolution efforts forward.

Vague demands

"We cannot just have (vague) demands such as 'the Qataris know what we want from them, they have to stop this or that, they have to be monitored by a foreign monitoring mechanism,'" Sheikh Mohammed said.

Anything that relates to the affairs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is subject to negotiation, he said, referring to the body comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

"Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs. Al Jazeera is Qatar's affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar's affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs," he said.

Qatar's Gulf critics have accused Al Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected those accusations and said it will maintain its editorial independence.

The crisis has hit civilian travel, some food imports, ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf and sown confusion among businesses. But it has not affected energy exports from Qatar, the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Rely on other states

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar would rely on other states if the boycott continued, including Saudi Arabia's arch regional foe Iran.

"We have a back-up plan which depends mainly on Turkey, Kuwait and Oman," he said. "Iran has facilitated for us the sky passages for our aviation and we are cooperating with all countries that can ensure supplies for Qatar."

His comments followed those earlier in the day, when UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash warned that the dispute with Qatar could last years.

"Qatar will realise that this is a new state of affairs and isolation can last years," Gargash told a small group of reporters in Paris on Monday.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash warned that the dispute with Qatar could last years. Picture: AP
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash warned that the dispute with Qatar could last years. Picture: AP

"If they want to be isolated because of their perverted view of what their political role is, then let them be isolated. They are still in a phase of denial and anger," he said, adding that a list of grievances for Qatar to address would be completed in the next days.

Qatar has relished support from Turkey during the dispute. Its state-funded pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera showed footage of a column of armoured personnel carriers flying the Turkish flag inside the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in Doha.

It reported that additional Turkish troops had arrived in Qatar on Sunday for the exercises, although military sources in the region said the operation actually involved Turkish troops that were already present rather than new arrivals.

Showing support

Turkey is one of the few powerful countries in the region willing to show its support for Qatar openly. Two days after the sanctions were imposed, its parliament fast-tracked legislation to allow more troops to be deployed to a military base in Qatar that already houses about 90 Turkish soldiers under an agreement signed in 2014.

Qatar has only 300,000 citizens enjoying the wealth produced by the world's largest exports of liquefied natural gas.

The rest of its 2.7 million people are foreign migrant workers, mostly manual labourers employed on vast construction projects that have crowned the tiny desert peninsula with skyscrapers as well as stadiums for the 2022 soccer world cup.

The sanctions have disrupted its main routes to import goods by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from big container ships docked in the United Arab Emirates. But it so far has avoided economic collapse by quickly finding alternative routes.

Qatar says the sanctions have also brought personal hardship for its citizens who live in neighbouring countries or have relatives there. The countries that imposed the sanctions gave Qataris two weeks to leave, which expired on Monday.

Thousands of Qataris have been unable to board flights to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and cut off from relatives in those countries, in a region where cross-border marriages are common and rulers refer to each other as "brothers".

The Qatari government communications director, Sheikh Saif, said Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini families had been "forcibly recalled" on Monday by their governments despite being invited to stay by Qatar.

TRT World's Nicole Johnston reports on who the winners and losers are in the region's biggest diplomatic crisis.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies