WORLD

Row erupts between Qatar, critics at Arab League meet

ROW ERUPTS BETWEEN QATAR, CRITICS AT ARAB LEAGUE MEET

A meeting of the Arab League, broadcast on live television late Tuesday, saw a war of words erupt between Qatari diplomats and those from a four-nation Arab bloc opposed to Doha's regional policies.

The political crisis pitting Qatar against Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates was not on the agenda of the meeting, which was held at the league's Cairo headquarters and attended by a number of Arab foreign ministers.

But this did not prevent a 30-minute verbal confrontation from breaking out between representatives of the five Arab states involved in the crisis.

Chaired by Djiboutian FM Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Tuesday's meeting was attended by a host of Arab diplomats, including Saudi Arabia's Arab League envoy Ahmed al-Qattan; Qatari FM Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi; Emirati FM Anwar Gargash; Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry and Bahraini FM Wahid Mubarak.

In televised comments, the Qatari FM said the four Arab states now arrayed against Doha were using every means possible -- "diplomatic, political, economic, even religious" -- to "delegitimize" the Qatari leadership.

He went on to assert that, "despite the illegality of the [Saudi-led] boycott… [Qatar] has maintained its efforts to find a political solution to the crisis through dialogue".

In early June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain collectively cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups in the region.

The four states also imposed a blockade on Qatar, demanding that it meet a long list of demands -- including one for the closure of Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera -- or face further sanctions.

Qatar, however, has refused to submit, denying charges that it supports terrorism and describing efforts to isolate it as a violation of international law and an infringement on its national sovereignty.

Tuesday's Arab League meeting also saw the Saudi representative accuse Qatar of cozying up to Shia Iran, which has long been considered Riyadh's main rival in the region.

The Qatari FM replied to the charge by saying Iran had proven itself to be an "honorable country" -- to which the Saudi representative shot back: "Iran plots against the Gulf States and maintains spy networks in Kuwait and Bahrain."

While the Saudi representative stressed that Riyadh did not seek regime change in Qatar, he said Doha would "end up regretting" its close relationship with Tehran.

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