Qatar refuses to entertain Saudi-led demands and accuses its neighbours of misleading the West

 
Lucy White
BRITAIN-QATAR-DIPLOMACY-MINISTER
Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani spoke at Chatham House in London today (Source: Getty)

Qatar has finally spoken out over the dispute that has seen it isolated by its neighbours, accusing Saudi Arabia and its allies of attempting to force the Gulf state to surrender its sovereignty.

Speaking in London this afternoon, Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani denied that the sanctions imposed on the country had anything to do with terrorism.

Instead, he alleged that countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt were instead trying to turn western countries against the tiny gas-rich state to suit their own political agenda.

The accusations which various Arab countries have levelled against Qatar, mainly centring around the funding of terrorist groups such as Isis and the Muslim Brotherhood, were “a carefully orchestrated smear campaign designed to misrepresent our policy”, Al Thani said.

Read more: Terrorism fears cause United Arab Emirates to sever ties with Qatar

“Western governments should take a position against this manipulation of the word 'terrorism',” he added.

Al Thani said Qatar was taking various measures to reform legislation, increasing penalties for anyone found to be funding terrorist organisations.

His appearance coincided with Qatar's response to a list of 13 demands, sent to the country by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

These included requirements to close down news channel Al Jazeera, and sever ties with Qatar's bordering neighbour Iran.

Al Thani said these were not “reasonable or actionable demands” as they would require the country to “curtail freedom of speech” and “surrender sovereignty”.

The Qatari minister declined to elaborate on what was in its response, passed on through mediator Kuwait on Monday, but said it was “nothing which would threaten our sovereignty”.

He added that Qatar's opposers had no power to eject the country from the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council as this would have to be done by consensus, implying that Kuwait and Oman would not side with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Last night, ratings agency Moody's changed its outlook on Qatar's credit rating from stable to negative, saying that it saw no imminent resolution to the dispute on the horizon.

Read more: Ranked: the world's most corrupt countries as Qatar leads the Middle East down