Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, has said that Qatar’s sovereignty must be respected, praising the Gulf country’s “restraint” in responding to a blockade imposed by Arab states amid the worst regional diplomatic crisis in years.
He made the comments on Tuesday in Doha during a joint news conference with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who, for his part, insisted that Qatar is looking to solve the dispute through dialogue, but without compromising its independence.
“There are boundaries that you should not cross, that the sovereignty of each of country and the respect of this national sovereignty has to be there,” Gabriel told reporters during the last stop of a tour of the Gulf region, in the latest diplomatic effort to end the standoff.
“It has to be a basic condition and when that is there, even the most difficult questions can be talked about,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism” – an allegation Doha denies. The four countries have also imposed a land, air and sea embargo.
After more than two weeks, the four countries gave Doha 10 days, or until Sunday night, to comply with a 13-point demand list in exchange for the end of the anti-Qatar measures.
Qatar on Monday delivered its response to Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator, and the Saudi-led group of countries is now expected to meet in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Wednesday to discuss their next move.
Gabriel told reporters in Doha that while Germany was not going to take any sides in this dispute, it commended Qatar’s attitude towards the crisis, citing Doha’s repeated calls for dialogue in order to bring about a resolution.
“Qatar has shown restraint in reacting to the blockade,” Gabriel told reporters in Doha. “We hope others will respond in a similar spirit.”
‘Unrealistic and not actionable’
The Qatari foreign minister, meanwhile, said his country is committed to “fighting terrorism”.
“Qatar takes the issue of combating terrorism as a top of priority. It is an issue of national security not only to the state of Qatar but to the entire region. However, the unjust siege imposed by the other states under the pretext of combating terrorism is totally false and fabricated,” he told reporters.
MARWAN BISHARA, AL JAZEERA’S SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:
The European position is very important, especially in the absence of clarity from the United States.
In a sense, the European position is also important in terms of how Germany, the most important economic power in Europe, expresses it. Germany has some leverage in the Greater Middle East – it doesn’t have hard power, but it does have soft power.
What we’ve heard from the German foreign minister throughout the last month is an attempt at being the mature person in the room in terms of the different things we hear – or we don’t hear – from across the Atlantic or the UK, France and elsewhere.
He also said that the demands put to Doha by Saudi Arabia and its allies were impossible to meet.
“The list is unrealistic and is not actionable,” the Qatari foreign minister said. “It’s not about terrorism, it’s talking about shutting down the freedom of speech.”
The demands included that Qatar shut down the Al Jazeera Media Network, close a Turkish military base and scale down ties with Iran.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from the press conference in Doha, said the Qatari foreign minister did not give any information about the contents of Qatar’s official reply to the demands.
“The main piece of information that everybody has been trying to find out is what exactly Qatar’s response to those demands entailed,” he said.
“The foreign minister said that he wasn’t at liberty to give details with regards to the response, but essentially he made it clear that … they were willing to discuss with their neighbours issues such as the funding of ‘terrorism’, but they were not willing to discuss issues of sovereignty or freedom of expression and free speech.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Gabriel held talks with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince in the UAE, where he said that the Gulf crisis is an opportunity for the region to strengthen the fight against the funding of “terrorism”.
“We clearly share the view of the Emirates that any form of financing of terrorism or extremism and the sheltering of extremists must end. We are of the same view that this affects the entire region and that there is now the chance in this crisis for the whole region to reach results,” he told reporters, before adding that the matter was not about “questioning Qatar’s integrity or sovereignty”.
“This is for us, Europeans, a very important matter because the Gulf Cooperation Council is for us the guarantor of stability and security in the region,” Gabriel added.