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Qatari emir: Saudi-led blockade ‘futile’, unity needed in Middle East

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani gives a speech during the 54th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani says his peninsular Persian Gulf country has “preserved its sovereignty” months after a “futile” diplomatic blockade was imposed against Doha by a Saudi-led group of Arab states.  

“It has been a futile crisis manufactured by our neighbors, some of whom are major regional players once believed to be stabilizing factors on the world stage,” the Qatari emir said during his speech at the 54th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Friday.

Tensions have escalated in the Persian Gulf region after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar on June 5 last year, accusing it of sponsoring “terrorism” and destabilizing the region. 

The quartet has also imposed sanctions against Doha, including restrictions on Qatari aircraft using the airspace of the four countries. To further pressure Qatar, Saudi Arabia has totally closed its land border with its tiny neighbor, through which much of Qatar's food supply crossed. Doha, however, rejects the claims, saying its sovereignty has been attacked.

“By diffusing the impact of the illegal and aggressive measures imposed on our people, Qatar preserved its sovereignty. This failed blockade shows how small states can use diplomacy and strategic economic planning to weather the storms of aggression from larger, ambitious neighbors,” Al Thani further said.

However, the Qatari emir called for unity and more cooperation between Arab states, particularly those in the Middle East, saying they should promote a flow of humanitarian aid in the region and access to religious sites for all faiths, prevent “desecration” of historic and religious sites, and adopt a European Union-style security pact.

“The Middle East is at the brink… it is time to bring it back. All of us here, especially those who enjoy more power and wealth, have a responsibility to solve the conflict. The Middle East will need help, from the larger international community, to succeed in such a mission,” Al Thani added.

Later in June last year, the four Arab countries urged Qatar to abide by a 13-point list of demands if it wanted the crippling blockade lifted. The demands included shutting down the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster, scaling back cooperation with Iran, closing the Turkish military base in Qatar, and paying an unspecified sum in reparations.

Qatar, however, firmly refused to comply, calling the wide-ranging demands “unrealistic, unreasonable and unacceptable.” In return, the four feuding countries vowed to impose further sanctions.

Tensions further escalated between Qatar and the UAE over alleged military overflights recently.

A number of attempts to heal the unprecedented rift have so far turned to be futile, including those by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, whose country has been playing the role of a key mediator since the beginning of the crisis.

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