British lawmakers deny link to Qatar ‘report’ on impact of boycott

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The image used by Qatar’s National Human Rights Council for the supposed report bears the portcullis logo of the UK Houses of Parliament as well as the names of British politicians — but no link to the report was provided. (NHRC)
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The image used by Qatar's National Human Rights Council bears the name of Grahame Morris MP who led the delegation. (Twitter: @grahamemorris)
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Lord Ahmed denied any knowledge of the report and said the Qataris had “weakened” their case. (REUTERS)
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Fellow delegation member Lord Kilclooney also cast doubt on the report’s legitimacy, saying: “I signed no such report.” (Supplied)
Updated 22 February 2018
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British lawmakers deny link to Qatar ‘report’ on impact of boycott

LONDON: A report by visiting British politicians on the effects of the boycott on Qatar was compiled without their authorization or knowledge — and may even not exist at all.

Qatar’s National Human Rights Council (NHRC) claimed that a report was published in January 2018 following a visit to Doha by a “British parliamentary delegation” in September.

It said the report details the group’s “observations and conclusions on the repercussions and impacts of the blockade,” according to the NHRC.

Although no link to the report was provided, the NHRC published a photograph alongside mention of it, clearly showing the portcullis logo of the UK Houses of Parliament, and the title “Human Rights Implications of the Blockade on Qatar.”

The image also bears the names of Grahame Morris MP, who led the delegation, and Lord Ahmed, Lord Hussain and Lord Kilclooney.

But on Thursday, Lord Ahmed denied any knowledge of the report and said the Qataris had “weakened” their case.

“I’ve not seen it or read it, and I certainly did not authorize using the portcullis logo. I have no authority to use the logo except on my letters from the House of Lords,” he said.

The delegation spent three days in Qatar last September. The visit was arranged by the NHRC, which subsequently claimed the MPs had presented a petition to Prime Minister Theresa May urging an end to the boycott on Qatar imposed by the Anti-Terror Quartet, which is made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. In fact, the MPs had simply submitted a suggestion to debate the subject.

Asked if the Qataris had misrepresented the delegation, Lord Ahmed said, “It weakens their case.”

His fellow delegation member Lord Kilclooney also cast doubt on the report’s legitimacy, saying, “I signed no such report.”

The NHRC claimed the delegation that visited last September had “interviewed” 100 “victims” of the boycott, now in its ninth month. But Lord Ahmed said, “We met quite a few people but definitely not that many.”

He also said he had been more concerned with finding out about progress on human rights, particularly the rights of workers employed on big construction projects.

“I grilled them on that,” he said.

It would also be wrong to describe their visit as official, he added. “It was a parliamentary delegation but it did not come about through any parliamentary structures.”

He believes he was invited because he had met the crown prince — now the ruler — of Qatar during a earlier trip to Gaza.

When asked if the report about their September visit even exists, Lord Ahmed replied, “I can only repeat I’ve never seen it and I can’t say I was involved. While we were there we made a statement on what we saw and heard but I was not party to any report.”

This is not the first time Doha has wildly exaggerated and even concocted stories concerning visiting foreign delegations.

Last week, the state-run news agency QNA claimed a British All-Party Parliamentary Group led by Alistair Carmichael had praised Qatar’s record on workers’ rights. But Carmichael was not even in Qatar at the time.

A spokesman for the House of Commons told Arab News that Parliament was not aware of this trip being “part of an official parliamentary visit,” as claimed by a QNA report published by The Peninsula newspaper.


Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

Syrian pro-government forces hold a position near the village of al-Malihah, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, on September 9, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 3 sec ago
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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

  • The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.
But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.
SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal.”
A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.
The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.
The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.
Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.
The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.
The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.