Qatar rebuffs terrorism list as Gulf crisis grows



Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani gives a press conference in Doha on June 8th. He rejected attempts to interfere in the country's foreign policy and said a "military solution" to the country's crisis with its Gulf neighbours was not an option. [Karim Jaafar/AFP]

The diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Gulf states escalated further Friday (June 9th) as Doha dismissed as "baseless" a terrorist blacklist drawn up by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain -- which accuse Qatar of supporting extremist groups -- released the list of 59 people and entities linked to "terrorism", including Qatari-funded charities.

The group said the list shows Qatar "announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organisations on the other hand".

But the document contains at least two names already designated internationally as terrorist financiers, and against whom Qatar took action, according to a previous US Department of State report.

Qatar's government said the list had no basis in reality and claimed it had the strongest record in the region on countering extremism.

"The recent joint statement issued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE regarding a 'terror finance watch list' once again reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact," it said in a statement.

"We lead the region in attacking the roots of terrorism," the statement added.

Qatar on Thursday rejected any interference in its foreign policy.

"We are not ready to surrender, and will never be ready to surrender the independence of our foreign policy," said Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. "No one will break us."

Blacklist steps up pressure

The blacklist is the latest in a string of allegations made by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar since the crisis erupted late last month.

As well as other measures, the Arab countries have ordered Qatari citizens out within 14 days.

Qatar's human rights committee said those measures had split families and that hundreds of people had been affected.

The feud has raised fears of wider instability in an already volatile region.

Kuwait -- which unlike most of its fellow Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members has not cut off ties with Qatar -- has been leading efforts to mediate.

Its emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, held talks on Wednesday with Qatari counterpart Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, following meetings with senior UAE officials and Saudi King Salman.

Analysts say the current crisis is in part an extension of a 2014 dispute, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily recalled their ambassadors from Doha.

A top Gulf official said a major concern was the influence of Sheikh Tamim's father, Sheikh Hamad, who had allowed the Taliban to open an office in Doha and helped arm Syrian opposition fighters before abdicating in 2013.

Doha has for years forged its own alliances in the region, often diverging from policies of the six-state GCC.

A senior Emirati official said this week's decision was not aimed at a change of regime in Qatar but to pressure the country to reshape its policy.

"This is a foreign policy that has gone wild," state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said. "We need to put everything in check."

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I don't think Qatar supports terrorism, especially as it's a truly Muslim country. Gulf countries mustn't differentiate or give in to any game, which we don't know the source of, and which may cause fitna between Gulf states, and make Qatar the first victim and allow what happened in Iraq, Syria and Libya to happen here.