KSA suspends contact with Qatar, citing Doha’s ‘distortion of facts’

In this July 3, 2017 photo, a black-and-white depiction of Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, attracts signatures and comments of support from residents amid a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and neighboring Arab countries in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Maggie Hyde, File)
Updated 09 September 2017

KSA suspends contact with Qatar, citing Doha’s ‘distortion of facts’

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday said it was suspending any dialogue with Qatar, accusing Doha of "distorting facts”.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) made the announcement an hour after reporting a phone call between leaders of the two countries in an effort to resolve the dispute between Qatar and the quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

The four countries severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting extremist groups and of being too close to Iran. They also shut down air, maritime and land links and imposed economic sanctions on Qatar.

In an earlier report Saturday, the SPA said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a call on Friday from Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who it said had expressed his desire to start a dialogue with the quartet and discuss their demands.

Crown Prince Mohammed welcomed Sheikh Tamim’s desire to begin a dialogue and that a decision would soon be announced after Saudi Arabia “concludes an understanding” with its three partners, the SPA report said. The phone call was the first publicly reported contact between the two leaders since the start of the crisis.

The call came a day after US President Donald Trump said he would be willing to step in and mediate the worst dispute in decades among the US-allied Arab states and Qatar, and said he thinks a deal could come quickly.

In a joint press conference with Trump in Washington, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah hinted at a potential resolution to the lingering crisis when he said that Doha has agreed to sit at the negotiation table and discuss the list of 13 demands of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ).

After reporting the phone call between Crown Prince Mohammed and Sheikh Tamim, another SPA report said that Saudi Arabia was suspending the dialogue, quoting a Saudi official at the Foreign Ministry as saying Qatar's state news agency QNA published a report that “did not have any relevance to truth.”

According to QNA, both Qatar's Emir and the Saudi Crown Prince "stressed the need to resolve the crisis by sitting down to the dialogue table to ensure the unity and stability of the GCC countries.” 

Sheikh Tamim welcomed the proposal of Prince Mohammed during the call "to assign two envoys to resolve controversial issues in a way that does not affect the sovereignty of the states," QNA said.

It said the phone call was based on coordination of US President Donald Trump who had earlier talked with Sheikh Tamim.

SPA said what the QNA published “is a continuation of the distortion by the Qatari authority of the facts.”

“It clearly shows that the Qatari authority has not yet understood that the Kingdom of 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 the State of Qatar minutes after its completion,” it said.

It further said: “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, the Kingdom of 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 that its public statements are in conformity with its obligations. The Kingdom affirms that the flounder of the Qatari policy does not enhance the confidence needed for dialogue.”

Hezbollah, Amal loyalists attack journalists covering fire

Updated 26 November 2020

Hezbollah, Amal loyalists attack journalists covering fire

  • Sawt Beirut International founder says they will not be deterred from carrying out their work
  • Sawt Beirut International journalists were beaten as they attempted to flee down the stairs, Arab News was told, until they reached the street, where the Lebanese army interfered

LONDON: Sawt Beirut International reporter Rabih Chantaf and cameraman Mahmoud Al-Sayyed were attacked and harassed by Hezbollah and Amal party loyalists on Tuesday while covering a fire in Beirut.

“Sawt Beirut International will be taking additional steps in the coming period to confirm that it will not give up in the face of this terrorist attack carried out by Hezbollah,” Sawt Beirut International founder Jerry Maher told Arab News.

“We are convinced that Hezbollah gave the order to the groups that attacked our crew and this operation was organised.”

In a video depicting the incident, Chantaf is seen reporting from the 11th floor apartment in the Zouqaq Al-Blat district in Beirut where the fire occurred.

A group of firemen can be seen attending to the damage and, soon after, plain-clothed men approached the reporter and cameraman ordering them to stop filming. Voices were later heard struggling until the filming abruptly ended.

Chantaf and Al-Sayyed were beaten as they attempted to flee down the stairs, Arab News was told, until they reached the street, where the Lebanese army interfered.

“One of those terrorists even warned a soldier telling him ‘move away or we will shoot you.’ There was a very high level of incitement,” Maher, who is also the media adviser to Bahaa Hariri, the brother of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

“This incident pushes us to carry on with this confrontation. We will not back down, we will not give up and we will not allow this corrupt system and those who protect it using illegitimate weapons, namely Hezbollah, to endanger the future of Lebanon and of the Lebanese people through such acts that undermine the security of the Lebanese people,” Maher said.

In a tweet Bahaa later condemning “the cowardly attack on the Sawt Beirut International team in Beirut by supporters of a duo who do not believe in freedom of the press.”

The duo refers to Hezbollah and Amal, the predominantly Shia political parties in the country.

This is not the first time Hezbollah and its allies have harassed journalists in Lebanon. Last month, journalist Luna Safwan was a victim of an online abuse campaign after a tweet she posted criticizing Hezbollah was carried by an Israeli news channel and she was accused of cooperating with Israel.

Lebanon is currently witnessing several crises. Even before the August port explosion that left at least 200 dead, the country was facing an unprecedented economic and financial slump, which the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated.

Saad Hariri was asked to form a government after his predecessor PM Hassan Diab resigned following the explosions, and prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib gave up after struggling to form a cabinet on his terms.