DOHA: Qatar’s ruler said Friday (Saturday in Manila) that the Gulf emirate is ready for talks to resolve a diplomatic crisis with a Saudi-led bloc so long as his country’s sovereignty is respected.
“We are open to dialogue to resolve the outstanding problems,” so long as Qatar’s “sovereignty is respected,” Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said in his first public comments since Saudi Arabia and its allies severed ties with the gas-rich emirate.
“Any settlement of the crisis must be based on two principles,” he said in a televised speech.
Sheikh Tamim insisted that any deal “must not take effect in the form of diktats but rather through mutual commitments undertaken by all the parties”.
“We are open to dialogue to find solutions to lingering problems within the framework of respect for the sovereignty and will of each state as mutual undertakings and joint commitments binding all,” he said.
On June 5, Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with their Shiite rival Iran. Doha denies the claim.
In his speech delivered on Friday night, the emir said Qatar was “fighting terrorism relentlessly and without compromises, and the international community recognizes this.”
The crisis between the regional allies is the worst to hit the Gulf in decades.
OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and its allies also imposed sanctions on Doha, including closing its only land border, refusing Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from Qatar.
And on June 22, they went on to present the emirate with a list of 13 demands with which to comply to resolve the crisis.
Kuwait has been trying to mediate the crisis and several top Western diplomats have toured the region to try to defuse the row, including US Secretary of States Rex Tillerson.
UAE welcomes anti-terror move
In a sign of progress, an Emirati state minister on Friday welcomed changes to Qatar’s anti-terror legislation as a “positive” step.
Qatar announced a emiri decree on Thursday establishing two nominal lists of individuals and terrorist entities, and the requirements for being included in them.
It also defined terrorists, terrorist crimes, terrorist entities as well as the financing of terrorism.
The decree follows the signing on July 11 of a US-Qatar agreement to combat terror funding during a visit to Doha by Tillerson.
However, the four Arab countries at odds with Doha dismissed that deal as “insufficient.”
On Friday, the UAE state minister for foreign affairs welcomed the latest Qatari move.
“It is a positive step to deal seriously with the list of 59 terrorists,” Anwar Gargash tweeted. “The pressure linked to the crisis has begun to bear fruit.”
But Gargash, repeated his demands for Qatar to reorient its policies in order to ease the crisis with its Arab neighbors.
“It would be wiser (for Qatar) to totally change its (political) orientation,” he said.
The changes Qatar announced to its anti-terror legislation amend an earlier law published in 2004 but Thursday’s decree did not provide details of the exact nature of the revisions.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday he was satisfied with Qatar’s efforts to resolve a diplomatic crisis that has pitted it against Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the foreign minister of Oman, which has remained neutral in the dispute, Tillerson noted “positive movement” in talks since he visited the region ten days ago.
“The Qataris have continued to move forward on the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that the US and Qatar entered into to address many of the terrorism, terror financing, counterterrorism concerns that people have,” he said.