Qatar will not negotiate with Arab states that have cut economic and travel ties with it unless they reverse their measures and lift a blockade against it, its foreign minister has said.
“Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters on Monday, ruling out discussions over Qatar’s internal affairs, including the fate of the Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network.
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“Until now we didn’t see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the precondition for anything to move forward,” he added.
Speaking from the capital, Doha, the minister said Qatar had still not received any demands from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, who severed relations with two weeks ago, triggering the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.
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.
The minister 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.
“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.'”
The crisis hit civilian travel and some food imports, ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf and sowed confusion among businesses. However, it has not affected energy exports from Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
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The minister said Qatar would rely on other states if the boycott continued, including Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran.
“We have a backup 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.”