Qatar Emir Breaks Silence on Gulf Feud, Is Open to DialogueBy , , and
Sheikh Tamim spoke for the first time since conflict began
Emir says Qatar isn’t afraid to identify and correct errors
Qatar’s ruler said his country is open to dialogue -- if sovereignty is respected -- to resolve the Gulf dispute, in his first remarks since a Saudi-led bloc cut diplomatic ties and transport links last month.
In a televised speech, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said Friday that Qatar isn’t afraid of identifying and correcting errors, and that while the Saudi-led alliance has violated international law by trying to isolate his country, the crisis has also helped the emirate to identify shortcomings.
“The phase that Qatar is going through is very significant in terms of opportunities not only to build, but to fill gaps and correct mistakes," Sheikh Tamim said, speaking in calm, measured tones. "As you know, we are not afraid to analyze a mistake and correct it.”
The address came hours after the United Arab Emirates welcomed Qatar’s move to amend its counterterrorism laws as a “positive step” toward addressing some of the demands at the heart of a spat that has divided the Gulf for nearly two months. That struck a rare optimistic note since his country, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt moved to isolate Qatar on June 5, after accusing it of funding extremism and being too close to chief Saudi regional rival Iran.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, qualified that position on Saturday, saying on Twitter that while dialog is important, it should be based on a Qatari “review of actions.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson voiced optimism on Friday, telling reporters in Washington that the U.S. is “satisfied with the effort” Qatar is making and urging its neighbors “to consider as a sign of good faith lifting this land blockade.”
‘Forceful, Not Insulting’
The emir’s speech “was forceful, defiant, steadfast but not aggressive or insulting," said Rami G. Khouri, a professor at the American University of Beirut and a syndicated columnist.
It also included “significant seeds” that coincide with some of the six broad principles that the Saudis and Emiratis have laid out, Khouri said, while adding some of his own: Any agreement should be negotiated and not infringe on a country’s sovereignty and freedom of expression, and any accord should apply to all the countries party to it.
Sheikh Tamim said Qatar is willing to take part in a dialogue to find solutions to the disputes, and that he hoped Kuwait’s efforts at mediation would succeed. He also reiterated his government’s stance that it is “fighting terrorism relentlessly and without compromises.”
Kamran Bokhari, a senior analyst at Geopolitical Futures, said the government in Doha didn’t want to appear intransigent. "By being flexible, Qatar is trying to make the other side look bad."
"In many ways, this has been the Qatari position all along: they will not compromise on their right to pursue an independent foreign policy but are willing to reach a negotiated settlement," Bokhari said by phone from Washington.
The emir also hailed his people for their spirit of solidarity, harmony and defiance. He denounced the Saudi bloc’s measures as an aggression against Qatar and called for an opening of the economy, saying this is no longer a “luxury” but an obligation.
“I don’t want to underestimate the pain and suffering that the blockade has inflicted, and I hope that such an approach in dealing with brothers ends,” Sheikh Tamim said. “This approach has harmed all of the Gulf Corporation Council’s countries and their image in the world.”