Warning of “dark ages” in the Middle East, Qatar’s foreign minister on Monday accused its neighbours of perpetuating “drama and discord” as part of a “dangerous game of power”.
“Regional players are acting irresponsibly, taking a political gamble with the lives of other nations’ citizens with no exit strategy,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in a speech at Washington, DC-based think-tank the Center for the National Interest.
The foreign minister was in Washington for meetings with officials from the Trump administration, including his US counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, over the blockade on Qatar.
Al Thani’s speech targeted countries that had imposed a blockade on Qatar earlier this year — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.
In June, the four countries abruptly cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups in the region.
Accusing the blockading countries of ruining regional stability and security, Al Thani added that the Saudi-led bloc is trying to subdue smaller countries in the region such as Qatar, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Lebanon.
“The world watches the news and sees images from my region which are full of drama and discord,” Al Thani continued. “Dark periods of closed-mindedness, totalitarianism and aggression [have] set in. The Middle East went from the centre of connectivity and enlightenment to being a chaotic region. During the age of aggression, extremism has flourished.”
The four nations have also threatened Qatar with additional sanctions if Doha failed to meet a long list of demands, including the closure of the Doha-headquartered news broadcaster Al Jazeera.
They are “governments who seek domination to centralize power, intimidate smaller countries into submission”, Al Thani continued. “These dark ages are not happening in the distant past. They are happening right now.”
Al Thani said countries in the Saudi-led bloc are willing to use unbridled means of intimidation, listing the offenses as “silencing dissenters, creating humanitarian crises, shutting down communications, manipulating financial markets, bullying smaller nations, blackmailing, fracturing governments, terrorising citizens, strong-arming the leaders of other nations and spreading propaganda”.
Turning to a question about Saudi influence on Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri‘s resignation, Al Thani said it is “an intervention into the internal affairs of Lebanon” and an effort to sway the balance of power in the region away from Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical nemesis Iran.
The Lebanese premier had abruptly announced his resignation on November 4 during a televised address from Saudi Arabia, citing an alleged plot to assassinate him. Hariri’s resignation, however, was not accepted by Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun amid allegations he was being held by Riyadh against his will.