Nearly six months into the blockade, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani remains defiant yet open to dialogue with the blockading Gulf states.
Demands imposed on Qatar by the four blockading Gulf states are not worth sacrificing the “dignity and sovereignty” of the nation, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
The defiant Qatari leader made the comments in an interview with US broadcaster CBS nearly six-months into a blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, who accuse Doha of ties to terrorist groups and regional rival Iran.
But Tamim said the blockade, which began on June 5, came as a “shock” as the former allies were discussing terrorism and financing terrorism at a meeting in Riyadh just weeks earlier. “Nobody brought any concern from those countries. Nobody told me anything.”
“When they [blockading countries] talk about terrorism, absolutely not. We do not support terrorism.”
The bloc’s demands are not entirely clear, but they include the closure of media outlets such as Al Jazeera and The New Arab, mothballing a Turkish military base in Qatar, and payment of “compensation” to Gulf states and Egypt.
But the emir said that he believed the Saudi-led bloc was attempting to undermine Doha’s sovereignty and interfere in its foreign policy.
“They don’t like our independence…we want freedom of speech for the region…they think that this is a threat to them,” he explained.
It was “obvious” that the Saudi-led quartet is trying to force a change of leadership in Qatar, Sheikh Tamim said.
The blockade saw a land, air and sea embargo on the tiny emirate which previously imported 90 percent of products – mainly from its only land border with Saudi Arabia.
But the emir, who has largely rallied up support from his people, has remained defiant in the face of the worst crisis to hit the region in recent years.
Despite this, he maintains Doha is open to dialogue and even accepted a proposal from US President Donald Trump to hold a Camp David meeting to solve the issue.
“We want it [the crisis] to end. But nothing is going to be above our dignity, our sovereignty,” Sheikh Tamim told 60 Minutes.
“But we want it to end, I always say that. If they [are] going to walk one metre toward me, I’m willing to walk 10,000 miles towards them,” he added.