CAIRO (Reuters) – Qatar on Friday dismissed as “baseless” accusations that it was financing terrorism, in its first public response to a statement from four Arab states which are leading a boycott against the tiny emirate.
The four – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain – said in a joint statement late on Thursday that Doha’s refusal to accept their demands to end the diplomatic standoff was proof of its links to terrorist groups.
In their statement, the four said the initial list of 13 demands they had put to Qatar was now void and they pledged further political, economic and legal steps against the emirate.
In its first reaction to the statement from the four, Qatar dismissed as “baseless” the renewed accusations that it was interfering in the affairs of other states and financing terrorism.
“The State of Qatar’s position on terrorism is consistent and known for its rejection and condemnation of all forms of terrorism, whatever the causes and motives,” the state news agency said, quoting a senior foreign ministry source.
Qatar was ready to “cooperate and review all claims that do not contradict the sovereignty of the State of Qatar,” it added.
Britain’s foreign minister, Boris Johnson, meanwhile arrived in Saudi Arabia and was to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in a bid to ease tension in what has become the Gulf’s deepest rift in years.
Johnson will also travel to Qatar and Kuwait for talks with senior figures from both countries, Britain’s foreign office said in a statement in London. It did not give a specific date.
It said Johnson would urge all parties to support Kuwait’s mediation efforts and “work towards de-escalation and Gulf unity for the sake of regional stability.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Kuwait on Monday on a similar mission.
The four Arab states have cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, which they also accuse of allying with their regional arch-foe Iran. Doha denies that accusation too.
Their original 13 demands presented to Qatar included shutting down the pan-Arab al-Jazeera TV channel and closing a Turkish military base in Doha.
Qatari officials have repeatedly said the 13 demands are so strict that they suspect the four countries never seriously intended to negotiate them, and were instead aimed at hobbling Doha’s sovereignty.
At the same time, they say Qatar is interested in negotiating a fair and just solution to ‘any legitimate issues’ of concern to fellow member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In their statement, the four Arab states said any additional measures would be aimed at the Qatari government and not its people. It did not say when the new steps would be announced or what they would entail.
Foreign ministers from the four states convened in Cairo on Wednesday after the expiry of a 10-day deadline for their demands to be met. They condemned the tiny Gulf nation’s response as “negative” and lacking in content.
(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Additional reporting by Costas Pitas in London; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein, Katie Paul and Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Richard Balmforth)