Qatari FM: 'We are an independent country with sovereignty'

Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani speaks to reporters in Doha, Qatar, June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
Updated 09 June 2017
0

Qatari FM: 'We are an independent country with sovereignty'

DOHA: Qatar’s foreign minister Thursday rejected what he described as interference in his country’s foreign policy, ruling out a military solution to a crisis which has seen Riyadh and its allies cut ties with Doha.
“No one has the right to intervene in our foreign policy,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said.
“We are an independent country with sovereignty,” he told AFP, rejecting tutelage from other states.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain lead a string of countries that this week cut ties with Qatar over what they say is the emirate’s financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival.
Qatar denies having any ties to extremists.
A top United Arab Emirates official on Wednesday told AFP that the unprecedented measures aim to pressure Doha into making drastic policy changes.
“This is not about regime change — this is about change of policy, change of approach,” state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said.
Analysts say the crisis is an extension of a pre-existing dispute which saw Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily recall their ambassadors from Doha in 2014 over Qatari support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The emirate is still home to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas and the Afghan Taliban.
Sheikh Mohammed called attempts to isolate Doha “collective punishment” and a “systematic campaign” against Qatar, which he said continued to work alongside the United States against extremism.
“Taliban representation here is done in coordination with the Americans,” he told AFP. “They are hosted here... for peace talks.”
The Gulf crisis has sparked fears of military escalation in an already volatile region. However, the Qatari foreign minister downplayed the likelihood of military conflict.
“We don’t see a military solution as an option” to the crisis, Sheikh Mohammed said.
The UAE’s Gargash said the measures against Doha were currently limited to diplomatic and economic ties, but warned that no one could project the “dynamic of a crisis.”
“Like any crisis, you cannot really control the dynamic... this is one of the dangers of any crisis. There is no intention for us to seek anything but what we look at as economic spheres of activities,” he said in an interview with AFP.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have suspended all flights to and from Doha and closed off sea and air links to Qatar.
Saudi Arabia has also sealed off Qatar’s only land border, a crucial lifeline for food imports.
Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar could nonetheless survive “forever,” adding that it respected international agreements and would continue supplying liquefied natural gas to the UAE.
Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.


Libya reopens Tripoli’s only functioning airport

Updated 11 min 45 sec ago
0

Libya reopens Tripoli’s only functioning airport

  • Mitiga airport was closed earlier in the day when residents reported an air strike on the Libyan capital
  • Mitiga airport offers air links to a city of an estimated 2.5 million residents

TRIPOLI: Libya has reopened Tripoli’s only functioning airport, aviation authorities said on a post on social media on Sunday.

Mitiga airport was closed earlier in the day when residents reported an air strike on the Libyan capital, but a later Facebook post noted the arrival of an African Airlines aircraft from Istanbul.

A Reuters reporter and several residents said they saw an aircraft circling for more than 10 minutes over the capital late on Saturday, and that it made a humming sound before opening fire on several areas.

An aircraft was heard again after midnight, circling for more than ten minutes before a heavy explosion shook the ground.

.

It was not clear whether an aircraft or unmanned drone was behind the strike, which triggered heavy anti-aircraft fire. Residents had reported drone strikes in recent days, but there has been no confirmation and explosions heard in the city center this time were louder than in previous days.

Residents counted several missile strikes, one of which apparently hit a military camp of forces loyal to Tripoli in the Sabaa district in the south of the capital, scene of the heaviest fighting between the rival forces.

Authorities earlier closed Tripoli’s only functioning airport, cutting air links to a city of an estimated 2.5 million residents. The airport in Misrata, a city 200 km to the east, remained open.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) force loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar started an offensive two weeks ago but has been unable to breach the government’s southern defenses.

If a drone strike was confirmed this would point to more sophisticated warfare. The LNA has so far mainly used aging Soviet-made jets from the air force of Muammar Qaddafi, toppled in 2011, lacking precision firepower and helicopters, according to residents and military sources.

The violence spiked after the White House said on Friday that US President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Haftar earlier in the week.

The disclosure of the call and a US statement that it “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” has boosted the commander’s supporters and enraged his opponents.

Western powers have been divided over a push by Haftar’s forces to seize Tripoli, undermining calls by the United Nations for a cease-fire.

Both sides claimed progress in southern Tripoli on Saturday, but no more details were immediately available.

A Reuters TV cameraman visiting the southern Khalat Furgan suburb heard heavy shelling but saw no apparent change in the frontline.

On Friday, two children were killed in shelling in southern Tripoli, residents said. The fighting has killed 227 people and wounded 1,128, the World Health organization said before the air strikes.

On Thursday, both the United States and Russia said they could not support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Libya at this time.

Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when his LNA advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

The United States did not give a reason for its decision not to support the draft resolution, which would also call on countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance and for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya.