Monday, April 22, 2019
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Qatar priority 'to address siege's humanitarian impact'

A week since the rift between Qatar and three other GCC members, Doha keeps seeking to mend ties through diplomacy.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani

Qatar's foreign minister has said his country's priority is to address the humanitarian consequences of a land, air and sea blockade imposed against Doha by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid a major diplomatic rift.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Monday that Qatar and the United States were in touch with Kuwait, the main mediator between the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), "to calm the situation".

"Our top priority in Qatar is to end this unlawful blockade imposed against us," he said from the UK capital, London

"Also to address the humanitarian issues caused by those arbitrary measures. Then engage in a dialogue and discuss the baseless accusations darted at Qatar."

But he said there was no foundation for dialogue just yet.

"Qatar is of the opinion that dialogue is the best answer to this crisis, however, such dialogue must be based on clear foundations, which are not yet made available until now," Qatar's top diplomat said.

Impact on families, economy

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties a week ago, accusing Doha of backing "terrorism" - charges Qatar denies.

The three Arab Gulf countries also ordered Qatari nationals to leave within 14 days, while Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens were also given the same timeframe to leave Qatar.

As a result, hundreds of mixed-citizenship Qatari couples are facing the grim prospect of being split from their families.

Amnesty International criticised the move, accusing the Gulf states of toying with the lives of thousands of people in their dispute with their neighbour.

The sanctions have also disrupted imports of food and other materials into Qatar and caused many foreign banks to scale back their business with the country.

'Demonising Qatar'

Qatar's foreign minister is on a diplomatic tour to London and France's capital, Paris, to meet his British and French counterparts.

"[I am here] to explain the facts of the crisis in our region and the unlawful measures taken against Qatar," he said. "Also to convey our views to our friends here in the UK and then in France ... Qatar is reeling under a systematic smear campaign aiming at demonising Qatar."

He said the campaign was "built on false fabricated media reports".

READ MORE - Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

Al Thani also reiterated his country's position on the demands of policy change made by the countries involved in blockading Qatar, saying: "The domestic affairs and foreign policies of the state of Qatar are matters of our sovereignty."

Speaking on the economic consequences of the blockade, he said it would not have "radical implications" on Qatar's economy.

"Qatar's economy is robust," he said. "It is true it is mostly based on oil exports, but it is also based on foreign investments, diverse industries and businesses that are not dependent mainly on the markets of the countries that imposed those measures," the foreign minister added.

"If there is some increase in certain areas of cost, it will be compensated in future. That is why our economy will not be affected."

Later on Monday, he also spoke from Paris where he reiterated his country's position on the crisis.

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