RIYADH ACCUSES DOHA OF USING TWITTER TO STOKE DISSENT
‘QATAR TO MAINTAIN SUPPORT OF ANTI-TERROR EFFORTS’ – TURKEY ‘LOYAL’
BERLIN, July 6, (Agencies): Germany’s foreign minister says his country’s intelligence service will participate in efforts to clear up accusations by Arab neighbors that Qatar supports terror groups.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar and mediator Kuwait this week as the Saudis and others seek to isolate Qatar over its alleged support for extremists. Gabriel told Deutschlandfunk radio Thursday there was an agreement for Qatar to “open all its books” to Germany’s intelligence service “if we have questions about certain people or structures.” The minister said he no longer sees the risk of a military escalation in the standoff despite an angry reaction Wednesday from the four Arab nations to Qatar’s response to their demands. Gabriel said that, while the reaction sounded harsh, many demands were no longer mentioned.
Saudi accuses Qatar
Saudi Arabia, which is leading a four-country blockade of Gulf neighbour Qatar, on Thursday accused Doha of being behind over 23,000 Twitter accounts it blames for trying to stoke dissent in Saudi Arabia.
“We found over 23,000 Twitter accounts driven by Qatar, some of them linked to accounts calling for ‘revolution’ in Saudi Arabia,” Information Minister Awwad Saleh al-Awwad told AFP during a visit to Paris. They included the @mujtahidd account, which claims to have the inside track on the Saudi royal household and has over 1.8 million followers, he said.
The account, which has backed Qatar, claimed that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates had set out to overthrow Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani but decided against after coming under pressure from the United States, an ally of both Riyadh and Doha. Al-Awwad accused a London-based Saudi dissident, Saad al-Faqih, of being behind the account, “together with Qatar”.
While some of @mujtahidd’s claims have proven false, it reported the death of Saudi King Abdullah in 2015 a few hours before the news was officially announced. Some of the other accounts identified by Riyadh as being Qatari proxies were behind calls for protests by the jobless on April 21, he said.
In the end, there were no major demonstrations in Qatar, with police flooding the capital. Further calls for protests during the holy fasting month of Ramadan also went largely unheeded. “They failed,” al-Awwad declared. His remarks came as Saudi Arabia vowed to push on with its month-old boycott of Qatar after the emirate refused to meet a list of demands to end the diplomatic crisis. These include Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood and closing its flagship broadcaster Al-Jazeera. Saudi Arabia and its supporters have severed air, sea and ground links with Qatar, cutting off vital routes for imports including food. Qatar has dismissed the demands as “unrealistic”.
Qatar maintains support
Qatar will continue to back international efforts aimed at combatting terrorism and fundamentalism in cooperation with its global allies, its Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani underlined on Thursday. After meeting Britain’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence Tobias Ellwood in London, he said that tackling terrorism represented a priority for national, regional and global security.
Last night, the minister met House of Lords and House of Commons members, with whom he discussed the tensions between Qatar and several Arab countries, underlining Qatar’s firm resolve in calls for dialogue. He also stressed the importance of boosting bilateral relations with Britain in the fields of energy, trade and mainitaining security and peace in the region. His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah has been leading mediation efforts on the crisis in an effort to break the deadlock.
Turkey ‘loyal’ to deal
President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday reaffirmed Turkey’s support for Qatar in its dispute with four other Arab states, saying their demands against the tiny Gulf nation were unacceptable. “When it comes to this list of 13 items … it’s not acceptable under any circumstances,” Erdogan said in an interview with France 24 television. Some of the terms were tantamount to “stripping” Qatar of its statehood, he added. Among their demands is for Qatar to end an accord under which Turkey maintains a military base in the Gulf state.
“We remain loyal to our agreement with Qatar. If it requests us to leave, we will not stay where we are not wanted,” he said through an interpreter, adding there had been no such request. Turkey, the most powerful regional country to stand by Qatar, has sent 100 cargo planes with supplies since its neighbours cut air and sea links. It has also rushed through legislation to send more troops to the military base in Doha. Two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armoured vehicles have arrived since the crisis erupted on June 5.
Arab states that have cut ties with Qatar vowed Wednesday to maintain their boycott of the emirate, criticising its “negative” response to their list of demands to end the diplomatic crisis. Qatar appealed for “dialogue” to resolve the row while US President Donald Trump spoke to Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to urge all parties “to negotiate constructively”.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, meeting in Cairo, “regret the negative response from Qatar,” they said in a statement. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Qatar’s response to the bloc’s conditions had “no substance” and “reflects a lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation”. The talks in Cairo came a month after the four countries severed ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting extremism. “The boycott will remain,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at the same news conference in the Egyptian capital. The four Arab states stopped short of announcing new sanctions but Jubeir said they would “take steps at the appropriate time”.
More isolation predicted
The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, predicted more isolation for Qatar. “Next greater isolation, incremental measures & reputational damage stemming from Doha’s continued support for extremism & terrorism,” he tweeted. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with the Amir of Kuwait and stressed Washington’s “support” for his efforts to mediate a solution to the crisis, Kuwait’s KUNA news agency said. The UN meanwhile said its undersecretary general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, was in Kuwait for talks on ending the dispute.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement that he was “pleased to see talks between (the US secretary of state) and the Kuwaitis”. “It is now a matter of the parties entering into negotiations,” he added. Qatar has said repeatedly it is ready for talks on the crisis, and Sheikh Mohammed reiterated that on Wednesday. “We welcome any serious efforts to resolve our differences with our neighbours,” he said. The minister accused Saudi Arabia and its regional allies of “demanding that we must surrender our sovereignty as the price for ending the siege”.