Qatar’s foreign minister says the blockade by neighbouring Gulf countries violates international law and human rights and the United Nations needs to take action against the Saudi-led bloc.
Speaking at a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva on Monday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Qatar faced numerous challenges because of the “illegal imposition” by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain after accusing Doha of funding “terrorism”.
Qatar has vehemently rejected the allegations.
The foreign minister said there are currently about 26,000 cases filed with Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee over the blockade. He said he is looking forward to having “measures taken against the blockading countries” by the international community.
“These Gulf countries have taken illegal measures that constitute a grave violation of civil, economic and social human rights, including banning Qatari citizens travelling or transiting through their territories,” Sheikh Mohammed said in the session.
“This has torn apart many families and has interrupted education and the right to work in Qatar.”
On June 5, the four countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, air and sea blockade on their Gulf neighbour.
On June 22, the group issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran, and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country as a prerequisite to lifting the blockade.
Doha rejected all the demands, denouncing them as an attempt to infringe on Qatar’s sovereignty.
The head of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri said last month his organisation would be taking legal action against the blockading countries on behalf of citizens who filed official complaints seeking financial and economic redress.
‘Willing to talk’
The Qatari foreign minister also emphasised that the blockading countries tried to “hide facts from people” and fabricated allegations of supporting “terrorism”.
“The real motivation behind the siege was not fighting terrorism, but rather to interfere in to our (Qatar’s) foreign policy and undermine its sovereignty,” Sheikh Mohammed said, adding the GCC crisis will only be solved through dialogue.
“The state of Qatar reaffirms its position in rejecting and condemning terrorism in all its forms, whatever the cause and motives are. Qatar is an active member in the coalition to counter terrorism.
“So despite any challenges and allegations, Qatar is willing to talk.”
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia suspended plans to hold talks with Qatar, shortly after reports of a phone call between Qatar’s emir and the Saudi crown prince hinted at a potential breakthrough in the crisis.
The call on Friday between Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the first official contact between Doha and Riyadh since the start of the dispute.
In the phone call, which was reported by state media from both countries, the two leaders expressed a willingness to discuss an end to the rift.
However, there seemed to be a dispute over protocol – with some reports pointing to Qatar News Agency’s (QNA) apparent failure to mention it was Doha that initiated the call.
In the phone discussion, Sheikh Tamim and Mohammed bin Salman “stressed the need to resolve this crisis” through dialogue “to ensure the unity and stability” of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said QNA.
The GCC is an alliance of six Middle Eastern countries: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.