Qatar sought Friday to enlist support from abroad after Saudi Arabia and its allies placed several Qataris and Doha-based organisations on a “terror list” in an escalating Gulf diplomatic crisis.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani spoke to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and also met his counterpart in Germany and was due in Moscow Saturday for further talks.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain led a string of countries that cut ties with Qatar over what they say is the emirate’s financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival.
On Friday, they released a joint statement listing as many as 18 individuals, including members of Qatar’s royal family and a former minister as involved in “terrorist” activities.
Also named were Doha-based Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Qatari-funded charities.
The statement said the list was “an indication of the duality of Qatar policies”.
It said the list shows that Qatar “announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organisations on the other hand”.
In all, 59 people and entities were listed.
It was released hours after Sheikh Mohammed said Doha would not “surrender” and rejected interference in its foreign policy.
The Qatari government said the joint statement “regarding a ‘terror finance watch list’ once again reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact”.
“Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement — a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors.”
“We lead the region in attacking the roots of terrorism,” the Qatari statement said.
The latest spat is unlikely to ease regional tensions in a spiralling political crisis which also threatens to involve the United States, Russia, Europe and other major players such as Turkey, a close ally of Qatar, and Iran.
Turkey’s parliament has approved deploying troops to a base in Qatar and Iran has offered to send food to Doha.
Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, is expected in Turkey Saturday to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss the “latest developments in the region”, Turkish officials said.
The moves taken against Doha on Monday included banning Qatar Airways from airspace and closing Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia, moves Doha’s foreign minister termed a “blockade”.
On Friday, after surprise talks in Germany with his counterpart Sigmar Gabriel, Sheikh Mohammed tweeted: “We both agree that the unjustified blockade on #Qatar is unacceptable.”
At a news conference earlier, he called the actions by the Gulf states “a clear breach of international law”.
And denouncing the blacklist, Sheikh Mohammed added: “There is a continuous escalation from these countries… but our strategic options are still diplomacy and dialogue.”
Gabriel agreed, stressing that “this is the hour of diplomacy”.
So far, European countries have largely stayed on the sidelines in the dispute.
Sheikh Mohammed is expected in Moscow Saturday to meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and officials said Friday he also spoke with Tillerson by telephone.
– Blacklist boosts pressure –
The blacklist is the latest allegation by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar since the crisis erupted late last month.
The Arab states have also ordered Qataris out within 14 days.
Qatar’s national human rights committee said families had been split and hundreds of people affected.
The feud has raised fears of wider instability in an already volatile region that is a crucial global energy supplier and home to several Western military bases.
Kuwait — which unlike most of its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members has not cut ties with Qatar — has led mediation efforts.
US President Donald Trump, who had initially backed the measures against Doha in a tweet, called Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani Wednesday with an offer “to help the parties resolve their differences”.
Qatar hosts the Al-Udeid military base, the largest US airbase in the Middle East that is central to the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Questions have also been raised over whether Qatar should retain the right to host the 2022 football World Cup and over its economic ability to sustain the crisis.
Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, but industry experts say shipowners are seeking clarity on the UAE’s ban on Qatari-linked vessels calling at its ports.
– Forged own policies –
Analysts say the crisis is partly an extension of a 2014 dispute, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily recalled their ambassadors over Qatari support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Doha has for years forged its own alliances in the region, often diverging from GCC policies and taking in leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Hamas and members of the Afghan Taliban.