Qatar demands ‘blockade’ be lifted for talks to begin

Doha (AFP) – Qatar on Monday demanded neighbouring states lift their “blockade” of the emirate as a pre-condition for crisis talks, even as the United Arab Emirates warned its isolation could last years.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani called measures imposed against Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and others “an act of aggression”.

“We have to make it very clear for everyone, negotiations must be done in a civilised way and should have a solid basis and not under pressure or under blockade,” he told reporters in Doha.

“Qatar under blockade — there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

“Until now we didn’t see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the pre-condition for anything to move forward.”

On June 5, Saudi Arabia and its allies cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar, pulling their ambassadors from the gas-rich emirate and giving its citizens a two-week deadline to leave their territory.

The measures also included closing Qatar’s only land border, banning its planes from using their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from transiting through their airports.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and others accuse Qatar of supporting and funding “terrorism” and of working with regional rival Iran, charges Doha firmly denies.

Asked if the ultimate aim of the Gulf countries was to enforce regime change, the foreign minister replied: “No one is in a position of imposing regime change in this country.

“Our system here is based on a consensus between the people and its ruler.”

– ‘Isolation could take years’ –

Sheikh Mohammed’s demand came as a UAE state minister warned Qatar’s diplomatic isolation could “last years”.

“We do not want to escalate, we want to isolate,” state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash told journalists in Paris. “This isolation can take years.”

Gargash said that while Qatar’s rivals were “betting on time”, a solution could not be brokered until it abandoned its support…

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