Qatar says it will not negotiate unless neighbours lift "blockade"


Reuters

UPDATE 3-Qatar says it will not negotiate unless neighbours lift "blockade"


* UAE says Gulf boycott of Qatar could last for years
    * Turkey displaying support to Qatar in Gulf standoff
    * Qatar says being punished for straying from neighbours'
line

 (Adds new Qatari foreign minister quotes, chairman of U.S.
joint chiefs of staff, background)
    By Tom Finn and John IrishDOHA/PARIS, June 19 (Reuters) - Qatar will not negotiate
with its neighbours to resolve the Gulf  dispute unless they
first lift the trade and travel boycott they imposed two weeks
ago, its foreign minister said, but added Doha still believed a
solution was possible.
    The United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia,
Egypt and Bahrain imposed the measures to isolate Qatar, said
the sanctions could last for years unless Doha accepted demands
that the Arab powers plan to reveal in coming days.
    Qatar has denied accusations by its neighbours that it funds
terrorism, foments regional instability or has cosied up to
their enemy Iran. The dispute has opened a rift among some of
the main U.S. allies in the Middle East, with President Donald
Trump backing tough measures against Qatar even as his State
Department and Defense Department have sought to remain neutral.
    On Monday Qatar held war games with Turkish troops, showing
off one of its few remaining strong alliances after two weeks of
unprecedented isolation.
     Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani
said Doha was ready to "engage and address" the concerns of
other Gulf Arab states in what he described as a proper dialogue
with pre-determined principles, but reiterated that sanctions
must be lifted first.
    "Until now we didn't see any progress about lifting the
blockade, which is the condition for anything to move forward,"
Sheikh Mohammed said. The countries that imposed the sanctions
have denied that they amount to a blockade.
    Sheikh Mohammed said he planned to travel to Washington next
week to discuss the economic effect of the "blockade" and its
effects on the global fight against terrorism.
    "We have a very strong partnership with the U.S. We are
partners together in the global coalition of countering
terrorism. We have been talking to them since the crisis
started," he said.
    UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said
earlier on Monday said that those seeking to isolate Qatar had
no intention of backing down unless their demands were met.
    "Qatar will realise that this is a new state of affairs and
isolation can last years," Gargash told reporters in Paris.
    "If they want to be isolated because of their perverted view
of what their political role is, then let them be isolated. They
are still in a phase of denial and anger," he said, adding that
a list of grievances for Qatar to address would be completed in
the coming days.
    Qatar has relished support from Turkey during the dispute.
Its state-funded pan-Arab Al Jazeera news channel showed footage
of a column of armoured personnel carriers flying the Turkish
flag inside the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in Doha.
    It reported that additional Turkish troops had arrived in
Qatar on Sunday for the exercises, although military sources in
the region told Reuters the operation actually involved Turkish
troops who were already present rather than new arrivals.
    The dispute is a major test for the United States, close
allies with both sides and which houses the headquarters of its
air power in the Middle East at an air base in Qatar.
    Washington has sent mixed signals despite Trump's firm
personal backing for the sanctions. Trump called Qatar a "funder
of terrorism at a very high level," but five days later the
Pentagon approved selling Qatar$12 billion of warplanes.
    The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on
Monday that military operations against Islamic State from Qatar
were continuing while acknowledging some friction.
    "But what I said last week remains true, in that we have
continued to be able to operate, even through that friction,"
Marine General Joseph Dunford told reporters in Washington.

    "BASELESS PROPAGANDA"
    Qatar, the world's richest country per capita, has used its
wealth over the past decade to exert influence abroad, backing
factions in civil wars and revolts across the Middle East. It
has said it is now being punished for straying from its
neighbours' backing for authoritarian hereditary and military
rulers.
    "It is unfortunate that our neighbours have chosen to invest
their time and resources in a baseless propaganda campaign,"
Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed al-Thani, director of Qatar's Government
Communications Office, said in a statement on Monday, calling
the terrorism accusations a "publicity stunt."
    The Qatar Financial Centre, which administers special rules
for foreign-owned companies operating in Qatar, said on Monday
it has no plans to take any action against Saudi Arabian,
Emirati or Bahraini firms in response to their governments'
sanctions against Doha. "It remains business as usual, and we
intend to keep it that way," its chief executive Yousef al-Jaida
said.
    Jaida said Qatar's government was also prepared to support
local banks if foreign institutions withdraw deposits from them
because of the economic boycott.
    Turkey is one of the few powerful countries in the region
willing to openly show its support for Qatar. Two days after the
sanctions were imposed, its parliament fast-tracked legislation
to allow more troops to be deployed to Qatar, where about 90
Turkish soldiers are stationed under a 2014 agreement.
    Turkey has said it would deploy 3,000 ground troops at the
base, primarily to serve as a venue for joint exercises.
    Qatar has only 300,000 citizens enjoying the wealth produced
by the world's largest exports of liquefied natural gas. The
rest of its 2.7 million people are foreign migrant workers,
mostly manual labourers employed on vast construction projects
that have crowned the tiny desert peninsula with skyscrapers as
well as stadiums for the 2022 soccer world cup.
    The sanctions have disrupted its main routes to import goods
by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from big container ships
docked in the United Arab Emirates. But it so far has avoided
economic collapse by quickly finding alternative routes, and it
said its vast financial reserves would meet any challenges.
    Qatar has said the sanctions have also brought personal
hardship for its citizens who live in neighbouring countries or
have relatives there. The countries that imposed the sanctions
gave Qataris two weeks to leave, which expired on Monday.
    Thousands of Qataris have been unable to board flights to
the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and cut off from relatives in
those countries.
    The Qatari government communications director, Sheikh Saif,
said Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini families had been "forcibly
recalled" on Monday by their governments despite being invited
by Qatar to stay.

 (Editing by Sami Aboudi,  Peter Graff, Toni Reinhold)
 ((tom.finn@tr.com))

Keywords: GULF QATAR/ (UPDATE 3, TV, PIX)



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