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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Qatar opposition conference to launch in London

Khalid al-Hail is organising a one-day meeting to give voices to Qataris seeking a change of direction

Khalid al-Hail, a former associate for Hamid bin Jassim, the ex-prime minister of Qatar, is organising a one-day meeting in London. Naseem Zeitoon/ Reuters
Khalid al-Hail, a former associate for Hamid bin Jassim, the ex-prime minister of Qatar, is organising a one-day meeting in London. Naseem Zeitoon/ Reuters

A Qatari businessman living in exile in Britain has been securing backing from a prominent Conservative MP to launch an opposition conference in London in September.

Khalid al-Hail, a former associate for Hamid bin Jassim, the ex-prime minister of Qatar, is organising a one-day meeting to give voice to Qataris that want a change of direction. The gathering comes as other GCC states are boycotting Qatar over its record of promoting extremism and harbouring terrorists in Doha.

Daniel Kawczynski, a Conservative MP with links to the region, said that while ministers and others had heard representations from Qatari officials defending their record, it was important to examine why the country’s neighbours had raised the alarm over Qatar.

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Speaking to The National, Mr Kawczynski said that the impasse should force a reassessment of British ties to an important strategic partner, especially given the gravity of the allegations. “The impasse between Qatar and the GCC is entrenched. They have gone as far as sanctions against Qatar, which is one the largest foreign direct investors in the UK and an increasing source of LNG for us.

“I think it is important to learn from people in the opposition about the concerns about Qatar.”

Mr Kawczynski said there was confusion over the reaction of leading western governments to the three month crisis. In the absence of clear leadership from officials, representatives and parliamentarians needed to closely investigate the Qatari system. “The UK government has been rather quiet and there have been very mixed signals from the Americans, not least President Trump himself,” he said.

Mr Hail has been involved in attempts to form an opposition party in Qatar since 2010. At one point he was held in Qatar but escaped abroad and is now living in London. His agenda is liberal reforms and he is leader of the Qatar National Democratic Party, which has brought together exiled activists in the British capital. Organisers are promising a line-up of former government leaders, academics and activists.

A position paper prepared ahead of the September 14 event warned that the “end game” for the crisis could throw up a challenge to the position of Emir Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani. Internal dissent would, in that scenario, negate efforts by outside allies to shore up Emir Tamim's position.

"Internal pressure from discontent Qatari citizens is increasingly obvious on social media accounts and open source media reports,” it said. “The likelihood of a coup from within the Al-Thani family is being discussed among diplomatic circles and has made headline news. Some believe that the presence of Turkish troops on Qatari soil and Turkey’s overt support for the incumbent Qatari government might mitigate the expected rebellion, while others are certain that Turkey will succumb to international pressure, and will be forced to withdraw its forces. The latter is more plausible according to experts.”

News of the conference came as Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, travelled to Brussels for meetings with the European Commission, which has backed mediation efforts by Kuwait in the crisis.