With UAE’s regional hub off-limits, direct trade routes are opening between Doha and Karachi to boost economic ties.
Qatar‘s foreign minister has criticised Arab neighbours for their continued economic blockade of the country, while stating that US President Donald Trump is stepping up efforts for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani made the remarks on Monday in Paris, where he attended a discussion organised by the French Institute of International Relations.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt cut political and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of “supporting terrorism” and their regional rival, Iran. Qatar vigorously denies the allegations.
Kuwait has been leading the mediation efforts between Qatar and the blockading countries, without success so far.
But with the dispute now into its fifth month, Qatar has sought alternative trade routes and sources.
Countries, like Iran and Turkey, have been sending cargo planes with tonnes of food supplies since the start of the blockade.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said last month that Qatar has acted effectively in protecting its economy against the Gulf sanctions, in part because of rerouting trade and establishing new sources of food supply.
The blockade is having the effect of pushing Qatar into closer economic ties with Iran despite their political differences, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman said.
“They said Qatar was now closer to Iran. By their measures they are pushing Qatar to Iran. They are giving Iran, or any regional force, Qatar like a gift.
“Is that their objective, to push one country, a GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) member state towards Iran? This is not a wise objective.”
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman also said he had seen from the US president a “greater desire” to fix the crisis.
The foreign minister, along with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was in New York for the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, which concluded on Monday.
“He has stated very clearly that he doesn’t want to see conflict among friends,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman said, referring to Trump.
“So there is a determination by the US to solve this by dialogue.”
In Trump’s initial comments in June, he suggested he had helped plan the Qatar action with Arab leaders, though last week he said he expected the dispute to be solved quickly.
Addressing the Paris audience, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman said Qatar still had political differences with Iran, including over Syria.
“After eight months, after the militarisation of the [Syrian] revolution, this is when Qatar decided to take a side. We decided to stand with the people,” he said.
“Our position – will it be changed because blockading nations have a dispute with us? That would mean our principles that we are fighting for our worthless.
“Our position and the values which we have stuck to from the beginning have remained the same. War criminals need to be held accountable.”
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman reiterated that Qatar’s stance that it is being falsely accused of supporting “terrorism” because its progressive policies have differed from those of the blockading nations.
“We believe that to resolve these differences, we all need dialogue and discussion based on respecting our choices and independence.”
He also said Qatar is willing to discuss any demand from critics, but they must not infringe on sovereignty or international law.
He said Qatar is doing well economically despite the sanctions.