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Middle East

Snubbing pressure, Qatar says foreign policy nonnegotiable

Qatar's Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani (R) visits the Mohammed V mausoleum during his official visit to Morocco, in Rabat March 10, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)

DOHA: Qatar Monday again dismissed demands by three fellow Gulf Arab states for changes to its foreign policy, calling its independence “nonnegotiable” in a further sign that it would continue to aid Islamists such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

In an unprecedented move within the Gulf Cooperation Council of allied hereditary monarchies, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on March 5, accusing Doha of failing to abide by an accord not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs.

The three GCC states are especially angry at Qatar’s support for the Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose ideology challenges the principle of conservative dynastic rule long dominant in the Gulf.

“Qatar is to take decisions, and follow a path, of its own,” the official Qatar news agency quoted Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah.

“The independence of Qatar’s foreign policy is simply nonnegotiable. Therefore I strongly believe that the recent statements made by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have no relationship whatsoever with the internal security of the GCC countries, but they are related to clear differences in views on international issues.”

A source close to Qatar’s government said last week the dispute had more to do with issues in the wider Middle East such as the crises in Egypt and Syria, than about matters affecting fellow Gulf states.

However, Saudi Arabia and the UAE do see Qatar as at odds with them on Gulf issues.

They resent the way Doha has sheltered prominent Brotherhood preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi, a critic of Saudi and UAE authorities, and given him regular air time on its pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera, and on Qatari state TV.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 11, 2014, on page 9.

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