View from Saudi Arabia: Qatar’s ‘fake news’ punctures reconciliation hopes

Saudi Arabia


JEDDAH: Euphoria generated by Friday’s phone call between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was punctured within minutes by distorted news reports from the state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA).
During the phone conversation, which was requested by the Qatari emir, Doha expressed its desire to sit at the table and discuss the demands of the four countries that comprise the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) to ensure the interests of all.
The crown prince welcomed Sheikh Tamim’s desire to mend fences.
The details were to be announced later after Saudi Arabia concluded an understanding with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, the other three members of the ATQ.
Minutes later, however, QNA published a distorted version of the phone call, prompting Saudi Arabia to suspend all communications with Qatar.
“What the Qatar News Agency published did not have any relevance to truth, and what was published by the Qatar News Agency is a continuation of the distortion by the Qatari authority of the facts,” a Saudi official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Qatari doublespeak and chicanery are among the reasons that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Doha in June. They accused Qatar of supporting regional extremist organizations and terrorist groups, and want the country to change its policies as a condition for dialogue.
Qatar’s distortion of the facts “clearly shows that the Qatari authority has not yet understood that Saudi Arabia is not ready at all to tolerate the change by the Qatari authority of agreements and facts. This is evident in the distortion of the content of the contact received by the crown prince from the emir of Qatar, minutes after its completion,” said the ministry official.
“The contact was at the request of Qatar and its request for dialogue with the four countries on the demands, and because this proves that the authority in Qatar is not serious in dialogue and continues its previous policies, Saudi Arabia declares that any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar shall be suspended until a clear statement explaining its position is made in public and its public statements are in conformity with its obligations.
“The Kingdom affirms that the floundering of the Qatari policy does not enhance the confidence needed for dialogue,” the ministry official added.
The call between the Saudi crown prince and Qatari emir came a day after US President Donald Trump offered to serve as a mediator to help resolve the dispute.
The White House on Friday said Trump spoke separately to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and to the leaders of the UAE and Qatar to convey the message that unity among Washington’s Arab partners was essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran.
“The president also emphasized that all countries must follow through on commitments… to defeat terrorism, cut off funding for terrorist groups, and combat extremist ideology,” it said.
One Middle East analyst observed: “Like so many times in the past, Qatar turned the breeze of hope into a heap of ash in a matter of minutes, through subterfuge.”

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