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Qatar Blames Saudi Arabia and UAE for Crisis While Rivals Meet in Cairo

  • VOA News

Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, talks to journalists during a news conference in Rome, July 1, 2017.

Qatar's foreign minister blamed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for leading the embargo against the Gulf state on Wednesday, the same day the group of nations that cut ties with Qatar issued a joint statement expressing disappointment over its "negative" response to their demands.

"We believe that this entire campaign is merely driven by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Qatar's Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told an audience at London's Chatham House. "These are the countries that we need to engage to find out what are the real problems and what are the real grievances."

His comments came a month after four countries severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar over concerns the oil-rich Gulf state is supporting extremism. Qatar denies the allegations.

Turkish troops seen unloading a vehicle at their military base in Doha, Qatar, June 23, 2017.
Turkish troops seen unloading a vehicle at their military base in Doha, Qatar, June 23, 2017.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Soukry hosted representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain in central Cairo to mull their next move following Qatar's response to their demands.

"The response [we] got was overall negative and lacked any content," Soukry said, reading a joint statement. "We find it did not provide a basis for Qatar to retreat from its policies."

The group did not announce any new sanctions against Qatar, but vowed to continue economic pressure until Doha made concessions.

The Arab states had issued a 13-point list of demands on June 22, asking, among other things, for Qatar to abandon ties with Iran, shut down the Turkish military base it hosts, and shutter Al-Jazeera news bureaus.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed called the demands "unrealistic" on Tuesday.

In London, he warned the group of Arab states against "demanding that we must surrender our sovereignty as the price for ending the siege," and argued the sanctions are really part of a long-running gambit for regime change in Qatar.

Seated from left clockwise at table, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa meet in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
Seated from left clockwise at table, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa meet in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 5, 2017.

"Beginning in April, Qatar was subjected to a carefully orchestrated and unprecedented smear campaign designed to misrepresent our policies and our positions," Sheikh Mohammed said. "Furthermore, officials from the blockading countries were not merely criticizing Qatar, Qatar's policy, something we have always welcomed, but they were calling for regime change in Qatar, a coup and inciting hate and violence."

He also added, "We welcome any serious efforts to resolve our differences with our neighbors."

U.S. President Donald Trump also stepped into the fray Wednesday, speaking over the phone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi about the crisis. According to the White House, Trump called on Egypt and the other Arab states to negotiate with Qatar in good faith to bring the deepening crisis to a swift and peaceful conclusion.

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