Al-Jubeir says calls for internationalization of Hajj pilgrimage ‘a declaration of war’

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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir with his counterparts from the Anti-Terror Quartet — Bahrain’s Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry and the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan — in Manama on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir speaks at Sunday’s joint meeting of the Anti-Terror Quartet. (Reuters)
Updated 31 July 2017
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Al-Jubeir says calls for internationalization of Hajj pilgrimage ‘a declaration of war’

MANAMA: Saudi Arabia considers Qatar’s demands for an internationalization of the Hajj pilgrimage a declaration of war against the Kingdom, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Sunday.
Speaking to Al Arabiya and Al Hadath TV channels at the end of Sunday’s meeting of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), Al-Jubeir said: “Qatar’s demands to internationalize the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom.”
He added: “We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalization of the holy sites.”
The ATQ — comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — has previously issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Al Jazeera channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with Gulf enemy Iran.
On Sunday, the foreign ministers of the four countries said they were ready for dialogue with Qatar if it showed willingness to tackle their demands.
In their joint statement, the ministers denounced the deliberate act of Qatari authorities to obstruct the performance of Hajj rituals by Qatari nationals.
They commended the facilities provided by the government of King Salman to all pilgrims.
According to Reuters, Al-Jubeir said Qatar was not serious in tackling the countries’ demands.
“We are ready to talk with Qatar on the implementation of the demands, on the implementation of the principles, if Qatar is serious, but it has been clear that it is not,” the minister told a joint news conference after the meeting.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa added: “The four countries are ready for dialogue with Qatar with the condition that it announces its sincere willingness to stop funding terrorism and extremism and its commitment to not interfere in other countries’ foreign affairs and respond to the 13 demands.”
The four countries added 18 more groups and individuals they say are linked to Qatar to their terrorist lists last week. They cut ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of backing militant groups.
The four ministers had met previously in Cairo in early July to discuss Qatar’s response to the list, which they described at the time as “negative.” 
In the weeks since that meeting, the ATQ appears to have reined back some of those demands, urging Qatar to commit to six principles on combatting extremism and terrorism and to negotiate a plan with specific measures to implement.


Iran’s Zarif says risk of war with Israel is great

Updated 17 February 2019
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Iran’s Zarif says risk of war with Israel is great

  • FM said Israel’s behavior violates international law
  • He also criticized Europe for not calling out Israel and US for illegal behavior in the region

MUNICH: Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday accused Israel of looking for war and warned that its actions and those of the United States were increasing the chances of a clash in the region. Addressing the Munich Security Conference, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also criticized the US administration after Vice President Mike Pence this week called on European powers to pullout of the nuclear deal with Iran. Zarif urged France, Germany and Britain to do more to save that accord.

“Certainly, some people are looking for war ... Israel,” Zarif said. “The risk (of war) is great. The risk will be even greater if you continue to turn a blind eye to severe violations of international law.”

Accusing Israel of violating international law after bombing campaigns in Syria, Zarif criticized European powers for not calling out Israel and the United States for their behavior in the region.

“Israeli behavior is putting international law on the shelf, US behavior is putting international law on the shelf,” he said.

Speaking to his cabinet on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iranian belligerence was the main destabilizing factor in the entire Middle East.

“We must deny Iran nuclear weaponry and block its military entrenchment in Syria. We will continue taking constant action to ensure Israel’s security,” he said in remarks broadcast on Israeli media.

Europe falling short

Vice President Pence on Friday accused Iran of Nazi-like anti-Semitism, maintaining his harsh rhetoric against Tehran just a day he attacked European powers for trying to undermine US sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Zarif said the US had an “unhealthy” and “pathological obsession” with Iran and accused Pence of trying to bully his allies.

“All in the name of containing Iran, the US claims, and some blindly parrot, that it is Iran that is interfering in the region, but has it been asked whose region?” Zarif said.

“Look at the map, the US military has traveled 10,000 kilometers to dot all our borders with its bases. There is a joke that it is Iran that put itself in the middle of US bases.”

Zarif, who said Iran was committed to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers for now, also accused France, Britain and Germany of not doing enough to ensure Tehran received the economic benefits of that accord.

These three countries this month set up the Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), a new channel for non-dollar trade with Iran to avoid US sanctions. But diplomats say it is unlikely to allow the big transactions that Tehran says it needs to keep a nuclear deal afloat.

Washington’s major European allies opposed last year’s decision by US President Donald Trump to abandon the deal, which also includes China and Russia, under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for Tehran accepting curbs on its nuclear program.

“INSTEX falls short of commitments by the E3 (France, Germany, Britain) to save the nuclear deal,” Zarif said. “Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against the dangerous tide of US unilateralism.”