Qatar’s chief diplomat warned of “dark ages” in the Middle East on Monday, calling out neighboring states for perpetuating “drama and discord” as part of a “dangerous game of power.”
The foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, took particular aim at a bloc of four countries, led by Saudi Arabia, who imposed an embargo on Qatar earlier this year.
“It seems these powers are willing to use unbridled means of intimidation,” he said, listing a myriad of offenses: “silencing dissenters, creating humanitarian crises, shutting down communications, manipulating financial markets, bullying smaller nations, blackmailing, fracturing governments, terrorizing citizens, strong arming the leaders of other nations and spreading propaganda.”
Speaking at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC, Al Thani derided these “powerful players,” questioning their motivations for the blockade and accusing the Saudi government of meddling in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, unexpectedly resigned his post earlier this month from Saudi Arabia’s capital, raising suspicions he might have been acting under Saudi influence.
The circumstances of that resignation, Al Thani said, suggests “an intervention into the internal affairs of Lebanon,” and an effort to sway the balance of power in the region away from Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical nemesis, Iran.
So far, efforts to resolve the diplomatic impasse between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc have been fruitless. The United States and Kuwait have both offered their support as moderators in the diplomatic spat, but talks quickly froze.
Al Thani put the blame squarely on the other side Monday, saying, “Whenever they are ready to try and engage, they will find us at the table.”
The foreign minister was in Washington for meetings with Trump administration officials, including his US counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
While the administration has, at times, offered contradictory positions on the blockade, Al Thani insisted Trump “wants to see an end for this,” and praised Qatar’s relationship with the US.
Tillerson engaged in a marathon round of shuttle diplomacy over the summer in an effort to bring the parties together. But President Donald Trump seemed to take a tougher line toward Qatar, at one point endorsing the blockade just hours after Tillerson said it was hampering US military efforts against ISIS.
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