Qatar refuses to 'outsource foreign policy' in Gulf crisis
Doha (AFP) - Qatar refuses to bow to Saudi-led demands to "outsource" its foreign policy to resolve the Gulf crisis, its government spokesman told AFP in an interview.
Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, who holds ministerial rank, accused Doha's adversaries in the crisis -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt -- of meddling in Qatar's internal affairs.
"What's behind this crisis of course is Qatari sovereignty and independence to put it very simply. It is about... outsourcing our foreign policy so that decisions are not made in Qatar, and that is something that will never be acceptable," he said.
Sheikh Saif said the Saudi-led bloc had laid down a new "ultimatum" on Tuesday by publishing a list of individuals and "terrorist" entities allegedly linked to Doha.
This "list, it's still an ultimatum, it's still something that is stalling resolving the crisis", the official said.
However, "we have said it from the start, we are open to dialogue, we are open to negotiating... The first step should be lifting the illegal blockade."
In the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years, Riyadh and allies have been boycotting Doha since June 5.
They have sealed the emirate's only land border, ordered its citizens to leave, and closed their airspace and waters to Qatari flights and shipping.
They are demanding that Qatar break its longstanding ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, blacklisted as a "terror group" by the four governments although not by the international community.
They also want Doha to close broadcasting giant Al-Jazeera and a Turkish military base, and to fall in line with Saudi-led policy in the region, particularly towards Iran.
Sheikh Saif insisted that "this crisis was again triggered by them not by us".
Qatar was prepared to discuss "anything openly" as long as it does not impinge on the country's sovereignty and independence, he said.
- 'We do more than them' -
Sheikh Saif reiterated Qatar's outright denial of charges levelled by the Saudi-led bloc of links to terrorism.
"We do not support terrorism in any way. This is all false, we actually do the opposite and we actually do more than them when it comes to countering terrorism," he argued.
Sheikh Saif pointed to the signing by the United States and Qatar in mid-July of an accord to combat the financing of terrorism.
"It's the first time such an agreement is signed between two countries... It sets new international standards to such cooperation in countering terrorism," the minister said.
He also noted Qatar's participation in the US-led coalition battle against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria and Iraq, with sorties flown out of the Al-Udeid airbase, the US military's largest in the region.
"To say that Qatar is not doing enough, it's just a campaign that the blockading countries have been doing for a while now... to drive attention away from them," he said.
Sheikh Saif said Qatar had "the support of the United States", while its adversaries had "more problems than we do when it comes to terrorism".
Sheikh Saif said Doha had proof that the UAE was behind the hacking of its national news agency, QNA, a key trigger of the diplomatic crisis.
The UAE was "the number one country involved in this incident and is the first country that gained from this incident", he said.
"We did identify numbers and IP addresses and entities that were involved" in the hacking.
As for demands to close Al-Jazeera, the pioneering news channel based in Doha, Sheikh Saif said: "This is not a new request to us, but this (is a) step that we will never consider even very slightly."