Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who was due to meet the UK foreign secretary on Monday, said: “We are asking Britain, the US and all other countries to condemn the illegal measures such as the air embargo and the break-up of families. Families and kids are begin torn apart.”
Qatar is facing a diplomatic and economic embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, over allegations – that it denies –of supporting terrorism.
Thani said the allegations were a smokescreen for an attack on Qatar’s independent foreign policy. Only 0.3% of foreign fighters come from Qatar, and none have been involved in a terrorist attack in the Gulf or elsewhere.
In part due to the UK general election last week, the Foreign Office has said little in public about the dispute that has divided some of the UK’s closest allies in the Middle East. Qatari investment in the UK exceeds £40bn, a fact stressed by Thani at a briefing in London.
Thani insisted the air embargo imposed last weekwas illegal under international law, adding it represented a form of collective punishment. The embargo was also having a huge humanitarian effect, he said, since families were divided thanks to closed borders and flight bans. “We are not asking any country including the UK to take sides, but we are asking them to recognise this air embargo is illegal in international law.”
He vowed Qatar would not respond to the crisis by cutting off energy supplies to the UAE through the Dolphin pipeline. The action could bring the UAE to its knees since Qatar provides more than a quarter of annual gas supplied to the Emirates. Demand is currently near its seasonal peak, with the holy month of Ramadan coinciding with rising summer temperatures that boost electricity consumption.
The dispute has the potential to upend longstanding Gulf relations, as well as strengthening the position of Iran, normally seen as an enemy by all Gulf state leaderships. Iran has offered to send food to Qatar, but so far the offer has been rejected as unnecessary.
Thani said the Gulf Cooperation Council, the body that brings together all the main Gulf States, is unlikely to be able to go back to normal. “There will be questions about how it operates in the future,”