Qatar says al-Jazeera, foreign policy are sovereign non-negotiable matters

‘We will not negotiate al-Jazeera or our foreign policy with Gulf countries’ says Qatari Foreign Minister

Qatar will not negotiate sovereign and internal matters including Doha-based al-Jazeera under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Qatar will not negotiate sovereign and internal matters including Doha-based al-Jazeera under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the foreign minister said on Saturday following a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.

Speaking to Russia’s RT Arabic, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani said Qatar would only negotiate matters related to ‘GCC collective security’, and said his government still had hopes for the Kuwaiti efforts to contain the crisis.

“[On] decisions that affect Qatari sovereignty and foreign policy outside the collective security of the GCC, we do not accept any dictates and we will not negotiate about them” or even discuss them, he said in response to a question about the fate of al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based media network whose independent line has long riled up Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Some pro-Emirati commentators last week suggested Qatar would have to shut down al-Jazeera in return for restoring Gulf ties.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain led a string of countries that cut ties with Qatar over what they say is the emirate’s financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival.

Qatar vehemently denies the claims, and says it is the victim of an orchestrated campaign to force Doha to change its foreign policy.

Qatar’s foreign minister fired back at the Gulf countries leading the blockade of his country, saying that there was “no clarity” in their accusations or demands.

“Qatar is accused of having a hidden relationship with Iran, but its relations with Iran are clear, transparent and time-tested,” said al-Thani, noting that the UAE does more trade with Iran than Qatar does.

He denied that Qatar supported Egypt’s outlawed Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, stressing it was a legitimate resistance group to all Arab countries, including Gulf countries.

He laso dismissed as “fantasy” a Saudi media report that he had met in Baghdad with the head of Iran’s Qods Force, controlled by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards.

He said Qatar remained committed to a Kuwaiti-led mediation effort, but that he had yet to receive a clear list of demands.

On Saturday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Qatar’s foreign minister of Moscow’s concern over Arab nations cutting ties with the Gulf state and called for talks to solve the crisis.

“As a matter of policy we do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries or their bilateral relations with each other. But it does not give us joy when relations between our partners deteriorate,” Lavrov told Sheikh al-Thani at talks in Moscow.

Lavrov said Moscow was ready to act “with the consent and the interest of the parties involved” to help resolve the diplomatic row.

“We call for all contradictions to be resolved at the negotiation table through a mutually respectful dialogue,” Lavrov said, adding Arab states should unite to effectively fight terrorism.

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar was committed to solving the issue via a dialogue and that he considered the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf as the most appropriate format for such talks.