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UAE minister denies Qatar hack claim, warns feud could take long time

Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, speaks at an event at Chatham House in London Monday. (Reuters)

LONDON: The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs on Monday denied the country was behind the alleged hacking of Qatar’s official news site and warned the feud with Doha could take a long time to resolve.

Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash disputed a Washington Post report that claimed the UAE had orchestrated a hack to post incendiary false quotes attributed to the Qatari emir. The publication of the quotes was followed by a boycott of Qatar by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt.

The minister said it was one of a number of false claims that had been made about the country, in response to a question from the audience at Chatham House in London, where he delivered a speech on Monday morning.

“This is instead first and foremost about the support offered over the past 20 years by one of the world’s wealthiest countries to the cause of jihadism across the Middle East, and for specific individuals and organizations, including some linked to Al-Qaeda,” Gargash said. 

“It is a crisis that is exacerbated by our loss of trust in Qatar, after it repeatedly broke its word to us. 

“It has spent effort and money trying not to help us, as allies should, but to undermine us and destabilize various countries including the largest Arab state, Egypt. This effort is reckless and will bring no benefit to Qatar. We want it to end.”

In his speech, the minister acknowledged concerns among Western governments that the six-week-old crisis threatened to sow further instability across the Middle East.

“Understandably many of our friends in Europe and beyond are concerned about this crisis. They see the Arab Gulf as a haven of stability in an unstable Middle East, and as an important and functioning common market. Many would argue that it is one of the few Arab bulwarks against further Iranian expansion. We understand and respect those concerns,” he said.

Analysts said the speech by the UAE minister in London reflects how both sides in the dispute are making great efforts to win the media war around the crisis.

However, professor Fawaz A. Gerges of the department of international relations at the London School of Economics said that the message from Gargash was that the only solution to the crisis was to be found in Riyadh, rather than Washington.

He said: “Today’s speech clarified that unless Qatar accepts the demands from the four states, then this crisis will most likely continue for the foreseeable future.”

He believes the longer the row drags on, the worse it will be for a country that relies so heavily on neighboring states for trade and transport.

“I don’t see a way out for Qatar,” he said. “It cannot survive as an island — and now it literally is an island.”

In his speech to Chatham House, Gargash also took aim at Doha’s approach to dialogue, accusing Qatar of leaking a series of demands made by the Anti Terror Quartet (ATQ) at the start of the crisis.

“If the Qataris wanted dialogue, why did they not try first to work through the mediator with a counter proposal in a mature fashion? Why didn’t they say that certain items were accepted and others not? Instead they said: ‘We reject all your demands. Let’s talk’ — but what was there left to talk about?”

Gargash added, however, that there were some positive signs emerging from Doha, including the signing of an memorandum of understanding with the US on terror financing.

“These steps are results of the pressure put on Qatar. And they are welcome — even if it seems that Qatar finds it easier to make these concessions to our Western friends rather than sit around a table with its own Arab Gulf neighbors to discuss their concerns and past experiences.”

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