‘Qatar is rich enough to face threats of the blockade’

Finance minister tells The Times newspaper that economic fundamentals of Qatar are in better position than its rivals.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors look at an oil purification unit at the Qatar Petroleum Company booth during a petrochemicals conference in Manama, Bahrain
Qatar's economy is growing 40 percent faster than the nearest Gulf Co-operation Council country, finance minister says [Reuters]

Qatar’s finance minister has said that the economic fundamentals of his country are in a better position than its rivals and that Doha is rich enough to face the threats of the blockade.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties to Qatar a month ago, accusing it of funding “terrorism” and spreading unrest.

Qatar has denied allegations and refused to comply in whole with a list of demands.

Speaking to The Times newspaper, Ali Sharif al-Emadi said the state’s huge financial reserves, built on the sale of natural gas over decades, meant it could withstand sanctions.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis – All the latest updates

“We have sovereign wealth funds of 250 percent of gross domestic product, we have Qatar Central Bank reserves, and we have a ministry of finance strategic reserve,” he told The Times.

Although credit ratings agencies have downgraded Qatar’s assessment of its financial outlook, Ali Sharif said the country was rich enough to sustain despite sanctions. 

He even compared his country with the status of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt.

“Bahrain and Egypt are at junk-bond level,” he said.

“If you look at Saudi Arabia, they are having genuine issues with their finances. We are the fastest-growing country in the region, 40 percent faster than the nearest Gulf Co-operation Council country [the UAE].”

Protect Qatar

On Monday, Qatar delivered its response to a list of 13 demands from Saudi Arabia and the three other Arab countries that cut have ties with it and imposed a land, air and sea embargo amid a major diplomatic crisis.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the country will do “whatever it takes to protect our people”, as he accused the Gulf states of trying to undermine his nation’s sovereignty.  

They also ordered Qatari citizens to leave their territories and took various steps against Qatari firms and financial institutions.

READ MORE: Saudi-led group vows ‘appropriate’ measures

On June 22, they issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, as a prerequisite to lift the sanctions, which include the closure of Qatar’s only land border and suspension of all flights to and from the country.

Saudi Arabia and its allies now consider the demands, sent via mediator Kuwait, “null and void” as the Qatari government had “thwarted all diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis”, the statement added.

Earlier on Thursday, the US state department warned that the Gulf crisis was at an impasse and could potentially drag on for weeks or even months.

The US believes the crisis could “possibly even intensify”, Heather Nauert, a state department spokesperson, said.

Later on Thursday, a state department statement said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be travelling to Kuwait on Monday to discuss efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies