UAE FM Anwar Gargash on Qatar: ‘Clearly there is a lack of trust’

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash
Updated 07 June 2017
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UAE FM Anwar Gargash on Qatar: ‘Clearly there is a lack of trust’

JEDDAH: The decision by Gulf states to sever ties with Qatar came as “an accumulation” of its behavior in the region, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash told CNN’s John Defterios on Tuesday.
“We had an agreement in 2014, on paper, signed by the emir of Qatar, pledging that he will abide by the various grievances that were put in the agreement. They have not held to that agreement, so clearly there is a lack of trust.”
Gargash said there are two messages for Qatar: “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt and other countries are fed up with this sort of duplicity that we have seen, that has been undermining the region… It is time for cooler heads to restructure Qatar’s approach on foreign policy. The other message is: If we do not see that change, then Qatar needs to understand that it is on its own.”
Following is the full transcript of the interview:
Q: What prompted such a strong response by this coalition?
A:
I think it is an accumulation of Qatar’s behavior in the region, and especially I would say over the last period… Huge logistical, financial support for extremist groups, support also for some terrorist organizations such as Al-Nusra and some organizations in Libya and in our area, such as the Sinai and other areas. This is really at the crux of the issue… There is no more trust.
Q: Doha is denying this, saying it does not exist, this evidence of financing terrorism or even supporting Iran. What is the concrete evidence?
A:
There is a lot of evidence. Doha has built over the years a large network… Just look at the small example of the ransom that was being paid to various terrorist groups in Syria, in Iraq. That ransom camouflages the sort of support we are seeing. There is also other evidence of arms, shipments etc. going to organizations in Libya... The evidence is there. Our attempts to raise this bilaterally, collectively with Qatar in a patient mood has all hit basically a brick wall. As a result, this is an action we have to take because Qatar is a partner with us in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and we need to work together.
Q: This is the closest thing I have ever seen to an economic blockade on many fronts. What are you hoping to accomplish from the young emir of Qatar?
A:
I think two things. The first thing is to make clear that various countries — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt and other countries — are fed up with this sort of duplicity that we have seen, that has been undermining the region. And to send a strong message that it is time for cooler heads to restructure Qatar’s approach on foreign policy. That is one message. The other message is: If we do not see that change, then Qatar needs to understand that it is on its own... We cannot accept that we have a partner sitting with us around the same table that is undermining our stability and undermining security in the region.
Q: Can it survive on its own, with this economic isolation? What is the point you are trying to prove here?
A:
I think we are all better off if wiser and cooler heads basically direct Qatar’s approach of managing the current crisis… (so) we can restructure and change Qatar’s policy not to undermine us, not to hurt us. The issue is not about an independent foreign policy. The GCC has always had various member partners with their independent foreign policies. It is an issue of foreign policy that is working to undermine the security and stability of the region and some of these partners. This is of course not acceptable.
Q: The emir of Kuwait is trying to broker a truce… Is that possible? Saudi Arabia is taking a particularly tough line, closing Qatar Airways offices, suggesting from the central bank they do not want to trade Qatari riyals. Do they want a solution?
A:
We had an agreement in 2014, on paper, signed by the emir of Qatar, pledging that he will abide by various grievances that were put in the agreement. They have not held to that agreement, so clearly there is a lack of trust, so a new mediation will be much more difficult. It will need a sincere approach from Qatar that will assure us all that Qatar is intent on changing its approach and being more in line with the stability and security of the region. If that is the approach, then of course we need to build a roadmap. I would say in view of what happened in 2014 it is a difficult sell, but we have to wait and see what happens.
Q: Is it fair to say this coalition feels more emboldened after the visit of President (Donald) Trump to Riyadh and the GCC Summit that took place there?
A:
The Riyadh Declaration and Riyadh conference were extremely successful in addressing the issue of extremism and terrorism in black and white. Basically, the Qatari position undermines the sort of consensus that was shaped in Riyadh. The current GCC response toward Qatar is an accumulation of more than a decade of very difficult choices, undermining policies, support for extremism... I think that is the problem.
Q: Many think this coalition is emboldened after the visit, though, of President Trump. Sources tell me that inside that meeting, Qatar took a very hard line. Is that what took place?
A:
I cannot comment on what happened in a bilateral meeting. I have read the press reports you have. I would say again that the issue of extremism and terrorism is at the heart of the current rift which the GCC faces with Qatar… We need to make sure there is a clear difference between running an independent foreign policy and running an undermining foreign policy. This is something we have to be very cognizant of.
Q: Do you see Qatar remaining as a member of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council after this?
A:
I hope so. The GCC is a very successful regional group.
Q: Some do not agree with that. They think it is completely broken.
A:
The numbers speak louder, with the economic numbers of people moving, investment etc. It is not ideal, but I think the GCC is a successful group that has brought a lot of benefits to the region. But the question I think is a little bit premature. It will all depend on how Qatar wants to address the issue. Does it want to deny that there is a problem, and try to deal with it with its various media outlets and try to divert the issue? Does it want to address the issue head-on and say past policies have been a problem? The emir of Qatar in 2014 clearly said: “Whatever happens before I became emir, I am not responsible for. I am responsible for the record of Qatar after I have assumed the emirateship of Qatar.” We need a change because it is undermining regional security and undermining our attempts at countering the extremist and terrorist narrative.
Q: What do you think is the narrative between Doha and Tehran these days? Do you think Qatar is supporting Iran? What is the evidence of that?
A:
I think that Iran wants to use any vacuum to try and push in. The emir of Qatar has not been perhaps as vocal in his position on Iran, because of the major economic interests they have in gas fields etc. But I think Iran is watching this situation, and is trying to see whether it can actually play on the situation and see if there is any vacuum currently.
Q: And bring Qatar closer to it, as you are suggesting?
A:
The best solution is for cooler heads to take charge in Doha… At the same time, it is important to get what I would call rationality, because the Qatari people are similar to all the GCC people in their social and economic backgrounds, what they aspire for and so forth. So I am hoping this is something we can actually deal with, but it will really require Doha to change the way it has been behaving, regionally and with its neighbors.
Q: Is there any potential for retaliation by Qatar? They deliver natural gas. About a third of the supply is to the UAE. Do you see that happening?
A:
No, I think there are commitments. These are all commercial commitments with proper legal frameworks. I do not think we will see that sort of retaliation. And it will not be wise.


White House’s Kushner to finalize Palestinian economic plan on Middle East tour -official

Updated 3 min 48 sec ago
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White House’s Kushner to finalize Palestinian economic plan on Middle East tour -official

  • White House senior adviser Kushner will visit Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE

WASHINGTON: White House senior adviser Jared Kushner will lead a US delegation on a tour of the Middle East to finalize details of his proposed $50 billion economic development plan for the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, an administration official said on Sunday.
Kushner, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, State Department official Brian Hook and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz are expected to make make stops in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the official said.
They leave late this month and return to Washington in early August.
The official said the purpose of the trip is to “continue on the momentum that was created at the workshop in Bahrain and finalize the economic portion of the plan.”
They will also discuss the possibility of locating the development fund in Bahrain, the official said.
Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and the plan’s main architect, sought to build support for his ambitious economic proposals for the Palestinian territories at an international meeting in Bahrain in June.
Palestinians poured scorn on the Trump administration’s $50 billion investment plan to help achieve Middle East peace, but US Gulf Arab allies said the economic initiative had promise if a political settlement is reached.
Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week discussed creation of the fund with World Bank President David Malpass, the official said. The World Bank has a role in managing the fund.
The delegation was not expected to discuss Trump’s long-awaited political plan for the Middle East, and when it will be released remains unclear.