Controversy surrounds Qatari Emir’s UK visit

Banners appeared over prominent roads in London with the hashtag #OpposeQatarVisit. (AN Photo)
Updated 23 July 2018
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Controversy surrounds Qatari Emir’s UK visit

  • Emir Tamim’s speech in Parliament is likely to praise his country’s relations with the UK
  • Arab activists in London said they’ve prepared a special welcome for the Emir

LONDON: Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani arrived in the United Kingdom on Sunday for a visit that is already mired in controversy, with activists planning to demonstrate outside Parliament on Monday against Qatar’s continued support for terrorism across the Middle East region.
Meanwhile, banners over prominent roads in London, with the hashtag #OpposeQatarVisit, asked: “If a country was accused of paying $1 billion in a ransom to terrorist groups… then why is the UK government rolling out the red carpet for the Qatar Emir?”
The schedule of the Qatar Emir’s visit was not disclosed officially by the UK government, but sources told Arab News that his official engagements will start Monday morning with a meeting with UK businessmen and later in the day, he is due to make a speech in Parliament. His meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May and other members of the UK government will take place on Tuesday.

Sources said that his speech in Parliament is likely to praise his country’s special relations with the UK and to condemn the year-old boycott imposed on his country by the Anti-Terror Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE) due to Doha’s continued support of terrorism and terrorist organizations in the Middle East and beyond.
Arab activists in London said that they have prepared a special welcome for the Qatari Emir, calling for a noisy demonstration outside Parliament on Monday afternoon. The call to demonstrate against his visit was widely distributed via social media, with videos of people interviewed on the streets of London calling into question Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. “I can’t imagine it’s for the good of the sport or for inclusivity,” says one man. “It’s just not fair that it’s happening in Qatar,” says another.
The demonstration will take place after several recent stories have drawn Londoners’ attention to Qatar’s actions. Most recently, the BBC revealed new evidence that a $1-billion ransom Doha paid for the release of 28 Qataris kidnapped in Iraq was used to fund terror.
Also this month, it was revealed that Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani, a former Qatari interior minister linked to financing and promoting terrorism who had briefly been confined to house arrest, had recently re-emerged in Doha, where he was photographed signing a wall portrait of Sheikh Tamim. And last month, the UK Parliament launched an investigation into the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK, a shadowy group with alleged ties to Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, after the videotaping of an event apparently breached parliamentary rules.

Ghassan Ibrahim, a London-based political analyst, said that members of Parliament as well as the UK government must review their position on Qatar. “If they have to meet with the Qatari Emir, they have to ask the important questions, especially the ones concerning Doha’s sponsor of terrorism and its ransom payment of $1.2 billion to terror groups in Iraq to liberate several members of the ruling Qatari family on a hunting trip in Iraq.
“The UK must also ask the Emir of Qatar questions about Doha’s continued financial, political and military support for the Al-Nusra Front and other extremists groups in Syria,” Ibrahim added, pointing out that Qatar continues to go against the international community’s stance to increase pressure on Tehran so that it stops meddling in the internal affairs of its neighbors.
Ibrahim told Arab News that it is “common knowledge that Doha has been supporting extremists groups and organizations that refuse integration in their respective host countries in the West, and Doha provides material help and funds for groups that are bent on dividing societies.”
The Emir of Qatar’s UK visit, Ibrahim added, is unlikely to change the Gulf country’s stance on promoting and funding terror, nor is it likely that Doha will change course and alienate itself from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror groups.
The Anti-Terror Quartet, which was established over a year ago, has been calling on Qatar to severe its relations with terror groups, and to stop giving financial and media support for the promotion of violent rhetoric and acts across the region.


Around 117 migrants may have died when rubber dinghy capsized off Libya: survivors

Updated 2 min 36 sec ago
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Around 117 migrants may have died when rubber dinghy capsized off Libya: survivors

MILAN: Survivors say up to 117 migrants may have died when a rubber dinghy capsized off Libya, a rescue official said Saturday.
Earlier on Saturday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said some 117 migrants who left Libya in a rubber dinghy two days ago are unaccounted for after three people were rescued from the vessel after it sank in the Mediterranean.
“The three survivors told us they were 120 when they left Garabulli, in Libya, on Thursday night. After 10 to 11 hours at sea ... (the boat) started sinking and people started drowning,” IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said.
He said the people came mainly from west Africa, adding: “Ten women including a pregnant girl were aboard and two children, one of whom was only two months old.”
An Italian military plane on sea patrol on Friday had first sighted the dinghy sinking in rough waters and had thrown two safety rafts into the water before leaving due to a lack of fuel, Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini told TV channel RaiNews24.
A helicopter dispatched from a naval ship had then rescued the three people, who were suffering from severe hypothermia and were taken to hospital on the island of Lampedusa.
“During this operation at least three bodies were seen in the water who appeared to be dead,” Agostini said.
The Italian navy said it had alerted Libyan authorities who coordinated rescue operations, ordering a merchant ship to go to the site of the sinking, though rescue efforts had ceased after the search for the dinghy had proved fruitless.
According to the IOM, 2,297 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year, out of a total of 116,959 people who reached Europe by sea.
Arrivals in the first 16 days of 2019 totalled 4,449, almost all by sea, compared with 2,964 in the same period of 2018.
“As long as European ports will remain open ... sea-traffickers will continue to do business and kill people,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in a Facebook post late on Friday.
Since Italy’s populist government came to power in June, Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League, has closed Italian ports to humanitarian vessels.