Qatar’s ‘fake news’ punctures reconciliation hopes

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, right. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2017
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Qatar’s ‘fake news’ punctures reconciliation hopes

JEDDAH: Euphoria generated by Friday’s phone call between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was punctured within minutes by distorted news reports from the state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA).
During the phone conversation, which was requested by the Qatari emir, Doha expressed its desire to sit at the table and discuss the demands of the four countries that comprise the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) to ensure the interests of all.
The crown prince welcomed Sheikh Tamim’s desire to mend fences.
The details were to be announced later after Saudi Arabia concluded an understanding with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, the other three members of the ATQ.
Minutes later, however, QNA published a distorted version of the phone call, prompting Saudi Arabia to suspend all communications with Qatar.
“What the Qatar News Agency published did not have any relevance to truth, and what was published by the Qatar News Agency is a continuation of the distortion by the Qatari authority of the facts,” a Saudi official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Qatari doublespeak and chicanery are among the reasons that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Doha in June. They accused Qatar of supporting regional extremist organizations and terrorist groups, and want the country to change its policies as a condition for dialogue.
Qatar’s distortion of the facts “clearly shows that the Qatari authority has not yet understood that Saudi Arabia is not ready at all to tolerate the change by the Qatari authority of agreements and facts. This is evident in the distortion of the content of the contact received by the crown prince from the emir of Qatar, minutes after its completion,” said the ministry official.
“The contact was at the request of Qatar and its request for dialogue with the four countries on the demands, and because this proves that the authority in Qatar is not serious in dialogue and continues its previous policies, Saudi Arabia declares that any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar shall be suspended until a clear statement explaining its position is made in public and its public statements are in conformity with its obligations.
“The Kingdom affirms that the floundering of the Qatari policy does not enhance the confidence needed for dialogue,” the ministry official added.
The call between the Saudi crown prince and Qatari emir came a day after US President Donald Trump offered to serve as a mediator to help resolve the dispute.
The White House on Friday said Trump spoke separately to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and to the leaders of the UAE and Qatar to convey the message that unity among Washington’s Arab partners was essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran.
“The president also emphasized that all countries must follow through on commitments… to defeat terrorism, cut off funding for terrorist groups, and combat extremist ideology,” it said.
One Middle East analyst observed: “Like so many times in the past, Qatar turned the breeze of hope into a heap of ash in a matter of minutes, through subterfuge.”


FaceOf: Fahad bin Sulaiman Altekhaifi, president of the General Authority for Statistics 

Updated 22 August 2018
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FaceOf: Fahad bin Sulaiman Altekhaifi, president of the General Authority for Statistics 

Fahad bin Sulaiman Altekhaifi has been the president of the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) since his appointment to the post in May 2016.

On Monday GASTAT announced this year’s Hajj statistics, revealing detailed information on the number of pilgrims (which amounted to 2,371,675) performing Hajj this year, their genders, nationalities and whether they arrived through air, land or seaports.

The president conveyed his gratitude to all government and security entities that helped the authority to collect data, and praised the 450 GASTAT researchers who worked to compile the information and deliver it to the public.

He said that the collected data would help facilitate better experiences and easier pilgrimages for future programs, and better services for pilgrims — from social to health, and transportation to security and food.

Altekhaifi received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from King Saud University in 1992, a master’s degree in statistics from Colorado State University in 1996, and his applied statistics and research methodology Ph.D. from the University of Northern Colorado in 2001.

He worked as a manager of a financial program at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh from 1993 to 2005. For two years after that, he was a project director at the EIS department in Zuhair Fayez Partnership Consultants.

In 2007, Altekhaifi was appointed a manager of the research department at the Capital Market Authority, before becoming assistant deputy minister for development in November 2011. 

In June 2015, he was the director general of the Central Department of Statistics and Information. He served as the acting president of GASTAT in February 2016, before being appointed president on May 2016.