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

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.


Malaysia’s poverty levels far higher than reported, UN expert says

Updated 14 min 23 sec ago

Malaysia’s poverty levels far higher than reported, UN expert says

  • Malaysia’s official poverty rate dropped to 0.4% in 2016
  • Independent groups said the actual poverty rate is 15%

KUALA LUMPUR: A UN human rights expert on Friday disputed Malaysia’s assertion that it has nearly eliminated poverty, saying that official figures were vastly inaccurate and do not reflect realities on the ground.
Malaysia’s official poverty rate dropped from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016.
But Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the official numbers relied on outdated measures, with the poverty line remaining at the same level for decades despite increasingly high costs of living.
Analyzes done by independent groups suggest that Malaysia has “significant poverty” and that its true poverty rate was about 15%, Alston said.
“The government’s official figures would make it the world champion in eliminating poverty ... but I think it’s pretty obvious that that’s not the case,” Alston told a news conference at the end of an 11-day visit to Malaysia.
The prime minister’s office and finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Alston’s assertion.
Alston said the national poverty line of $234.00 per household per month was “ridiculous,” as it would mean an urban family of four would have to survive on 8 ringgit, or less than $2, per person per day.
“It can’t be done except under really dire circumstances,” he said.
Undercounting the poverty rate has led to a lack of effective government policies targeting the problem, with too many underfunded and ineffective programs in place, Alston said.
He urged Malaysia to reassess its methods for measuring poverty and take into account vulnerable groups excluded from the data such as stateless families, migrant workers, and refugees
“Only then can Malaysia begin devising policies that can systematically address their needs,” he said.