Accused of fuelling terror, Qatar reminds Gulf critics of 9/11 as rift drags on
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Dubai: Qatar’s ambassador to the US accused the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia of committing the same sins they’re boycotting his country for, as the worst crisis among Gulf Arab monarchies enters its third week.
“Emiratis, not Qataris, were among the hijackers who flew planes into the Twin Towers,’’ Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, responding to a similar article penned by his UAE counterpart last week. “The UAE was singled out in the 9/11 Commission’s report for its role in laundering money to terrorists.”
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar on 5 June, accusing it of supporting terrorism, a charge Qatar denies. Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, on 12 June wrote that Qatar shouldn’t be allowed to own landmarks and businesses globally while using the proceeds to finance extremist groups.
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson cancelled a trip to Mexico to try to resolve the crisis as mediation by Kuwait continues. The Saudi-led alliance has yet to submit a list of demands to end the diplomatic and economic isolation of the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
Two of the 19 hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center towers in 2001 came from the UAE while 15 others were Saudi. The remaining two were Lebanese and Egyptian.
“The United Nations and the US treasury department list 10 times as many suspected terrorists and terrorist financiers from the boycotting countries as from Qatar,” Qatar’s envoy to Washington wrote.
Qatar has been a maverick in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), enjoying cordial relations with Iran and supporting Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its Hamas offshoot in the Gaza Strip. Its media network, Al Jazeera, has embarrassed or angered most West Asian governments. Yet the current strains are unprecedented.
Officials in Doha sought to reassure a nation shocked by the ferocity of the measures against it, including the expulsion of Qatari nationals and the recall of Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini families from Qatar. Qatar’s economy and commerce minister Sheikh Ahmed Al-Thani told Qatar TV in an interview that business is “running as usual” and construction work for the 2022 Fifa World Cup is going ahead as planned.
Qatar “dealt swiftly with the closure of borders by getting products through sea and different means”, and reserves of some products could last a year, state-run Qatar News Agency quoted the minister as saying.
At the same time, government spokesman Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani deplored the effect the boycott was having on GCC nations. “The social-fabric of GCC population is being torn apart for political reasons,” he wrote in a statement.
“It is clear that the actions of the blockading nations have little to do with addressing legitimate grievances and everything to do with attacking Qatar’s image and reputation,” he added. “The blockading nations are using terrorism as a publicity stunt.” Bloomberg