x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Qatar prolonging the GCC stalemate, Saudi Arabia says

Mr Al Jubeir made clear that the quartet anticipated the stalemate will hold for some time, saying that if the Qatar crisis continued for another two years 'so be it'

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi embassy in London, on September 5, 2017. Hannah McKay / Reuters
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi embassy in London, on September 5, 2017. Hannah McKay / Reuters

Saudi Arabia said that Qatar is prolonging the GCC stalemate by failing to address the concerns of the four Arab countries boycotting it.

“I think the Qataris may be in denial because they talk about being blockaded and they forget the core issue, which is their support for terrorism,” said Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir on Tuesday during a visit to London.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5 over accusations it was supporting terrorism and intervening in the internal affairs of other countries. Doha denies the allegations.

Mr Al Jubeir made clear that the quartet anticipated the stalemate will hold for some time, saying that if the Qatar crisis continued for another two years “so be it”.

“Show me one individual in Saudi Arabia on a UN sanctions list for financing terrorism, and I will show you one person in jail,” said the foreign minister. “There are a number of people in Qatar operating in the open, providing funding for Al Qaeda, funding Daesh, funding Al Nusra [Front], and providing support for radical militias in Libya.

“Is that acceptable? We don’t think so.”

Mr Al Jubeir met with a number of high-ranking British officials, including prime minister Theresa May and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, during his short visit.

He told reporters that talk of rapprochement with Iran was laughable, adding that Tehran would have to change its policies before any reconciliation.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said last month that Tehran and Riyadh would exchange diplomatic visits after they completely severed ties last year.

“The comments of the foreign minister are laughable,” Mr Al Jubeir said. “If Iran wants to have good relations with Saudi Arabia, it has to change its policies. It has to respect international law.

“At this time, we do not see that they’re serious about wanting to be a good neighbour.”

Mr Zarif was quoted by the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) that diplomatic visits could take place after the Hajj pilgrimage, which ended on September 4.

However, Mr Al Jubeir noted that diplomatic exchanges with Tehran over arrangements for the Hajj did not represent a normalisation of relations and that such contacts had nothing to do with politics.

“We had the Hajj season, and when we have the Hajj, we try not to politicise it. But this is not normalisation,” he said. “The meetings around the Hajj, have nothing to do with the politics. It’s a religious issue.”

Riyadh has voiced concerns about Tehran’s support for the Syrian regime, its role in propping up the Houthi rebels in Yemen, in addition to its support for some sectarian militias in Iraq.