Brussels, 19 February (2020) – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani reiterated Qatar’s call to all countries in the Middle East to conclude a binding security agreement, specifying the conditions for its success to be “collective and binding; based on agreed principles of security, developed with rules of governance, dispute resolution, and accountability; respectful of sovereignty and equality among its members; a commitment to non-interference in internal affairs.”
In a speech before the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, the Foreign Minister underlined that any broad security collective agreement must bring together all countries in the region to be effective in achieving peace.
The Minister said, “In my region, our primary challenge is establishing peace and stability, which will be restored only when all the countries in the Middle East agree to work together to reach consensus on key challenges. This is critical to all of us here today because the current turmoil, transnational terrorism, and displaced populations directly impact you here in Europe.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs considered that security in the Middle East is closely linked to international peace and security, adding “We need the EU’s diplomatic support getting every Middle East country to the table, enforcing international law, and restoring the world order to keep nations accountable.”
His Excellency affirmed, “Qatar will continue to play a role in de-escalating tensions in the Middle East because Qatar believes in the power of dialogue and commitment.”
The Foreign Minister noted, “Recently, we witnessed a breakthrough in the US-Taliban peace talks, which have been hosted in Doha for years. This breakthrough serves as a step to Afghan peace, and hopeful proof that a commitment to negotiation can – create – results.” He added, “We appreciate all the efforts by the European Union to contribute to peace and security in my region.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani stated, “Qatar is a small state in a turbulent neighborhood, and yet we are ranked one of the safest countries in the world. Globally, we are counted-on to facilitate dialogue between East and West.”
He noted, “Qatar has been implementing progressive domestic policies for decades. Qatar created a legacy of education, media, travel, and sports.”
His Excellency added, “We built the Qatari education system from the ground up, and now host many Western universities in Doha, where women outpace men in higher education.”
The Foreign Minister stated, “Qatar launched the Al Jazeera Network to deliver uncensored information to my region,” adding “Year after year, Qatar Airways ranks among the most elite airlines in the world.”
His Excellency said, “I invite you all to join us in 2022 as we deliver the first World Cup in the Arab world, which will be a much-needed injection of hope for the youth of my region.”
HE the Minister said, “Qatar considers the youth of the Middle East to be its most important development goal. Desperate out-of-school children, and out-of-work young people often fall prey to dangerous ideologies,” adding, “So outside Qatar, and in partnership with European Union member-states, we have put over 11 million out-of-school children back in primary schools, and are creating job opportunities for 5 million young people.”
The Foreign Minister underscored, “In Qatar, we share common values and priorities with the EU in promoting peace, security, and prosperity in both our regions.”
“We believe that the world is interconnected, and so successes and failures in the Middle East affect the EU, just as your successes and failures affect us.”
He stressed, “This interconnectedness requires continual collaboration and comprehensive multilateral solutions.”
Answering questions from the attendees, HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani expressed Qatar’s appreciation for the efforts of HH the Amir of the State of Kuwait to reach a solution for the Gulf crisis, adding we were hoping for reaching an understanding with Saudi Arabia last November when the talks started, but the talks were suspended two months later by the Saudis without prior notice.
His Excellency added we still welcome any efforts by Kuwaiti mediation, and we hope that Saudi Arabia or any of the blockading countries will come to the negotiating table to reach a solution to this crisis.
He said that Qatar understands that the loser of this crisis is the entire region, and that there will be no winner. He added we will all be winners if we can solve it in a way that avoids conflicts in the future.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that the important thing that should happen in the Gulf and we hope it will happen is that the Saudis and the Emiratis will return to their senses and stop the campaigns against Qatar.
On the relations between Doha and Tehran, His Excellency said that Iran is our neighbor and it has many problems with the United States. Qatar has good relations with Iran, which has opened its airspace and ports to supply goods, and we appreciate that, especially in the early days of the blockade.
Now we would like to see our region stable and we do not want to see a conflict between Iran and the United States, the latter being our strategic ally and Qatar is hosting its largest military base in the region. Qatar has also neighborly relations with Iran.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs said we worked hard when the crisis escalated between Iran and the US, and we urged them to resort to negotiations, contain the situation and solve the crisis between them diplomatically. We all hope for a solution.
Responding to a question about the existence of a law targeting freedom of expression in Qatar, HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said we are still strong defenders of freedom of expression in Qatar and we are also defending it outside Qatar. Unfortunately this law has been misinterpreted. This law targets misleading information not freedom of expression. Misleading information occurs everywhere and is not exclusive to Qatar.
As evidence that it does not target criticism, this law has been criticized in Qatar and no one has been brought to trial or judicial accountability under that law, His Excellency said, adding that it is only to protect our country from misleading information and propaganda campaigns that started with this blockade against Qatar.
On Libya, His Excellency said that Qatar’s position has remained consistent and is in support of the Skhirat Agreement signed in 2015, which resulted in the formation of a legitimate government recognized by the international community, adding that we will continue our contacts with the UN-recognized Government of National Accord. We condemn all military actions taking place in Libya by retired General Haftar, and we condemn his targeting of the capital Tripoli.
We have travelled the world and asked for an end to this aggression, support for the ceasefire in Libya and help the parties reach a political solution. We see that the international community has started taking action a month after this continuous attack on Tripoli. We are watching that there is a party that does not abide by the United Nations resolution and international agreements signed in this regard, such as the Berlin Agreement and the Moscow Agreement.
He pointed out that Haftar bombed the port of Tripoli yesterday, and before that he attacked the airport and all civilian facilities but we have not seen any strong action taken against him.
His Excellency said that the Libyans should sit at the dialogue table to decide their fate themselves without any external interference, adding we will support that, including the Berlin Agreement, as long as it leads to stability in
Regarding the Palestinian cause, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs said Qatar is one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinians and contributes to that either individually or through programs implemented with various United Nations agencies, noting that Qatar is now the largest donor to UNRWA to fill the gap occurred after the United States withdrew its support for UNRWA, stressing that the role of UNRWA is still important and that the right of these refugees to return to their country must not be forgotten.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed to other programs in Gaza and the West Bank, such as building schools, hospitals, roads, housing projects and supplying them with energy, especially in the Gaza Strip. He added that the period of electrical supply has been increased from two hours to eight hours per day since a year and a half. We will continue to support the people of Gaza.
Asked about the US President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East, HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said we welcome every initiative that develops a plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but it must be in accordance with international legitimacy, and this is Qatar’s position. We urge the two parties, through the United States, to enter into direct negotiations, and we would like to see peace between them, but we must also not ignore the fact that the Arab countries agreed to an Arab initiative that they presented and that initiative constitutes a fair basis for such negotiations.
His Excellency added we will continue to advise the parties to engage in negotiations and we urge the United States to speak directly with the Palestinians to better understand and improve their plans.
Responding to a question about Qatar’s role in Syria and whether it financed terrorist groups, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Qatar had never funded terrorist organizations in Syria, stressing we have made this clear from the beginning and we have said that our support goes directly to the Syrian people either through humanitarian support or humanitarian organizations alongside the United Nations to provide them with development assistance and educational services. There are more than a million children in the Syrian refugee camps who are receiving education through Qatari programs, and we will continue this path, he said.
As for supporting the Syrian opposition at some point, he said that was a collective effort by the Group of Friends of the Syrian People, and we did so publicly with others, as these contributions were distributed equally among those countries. We are sure that our contributions did not go to any terrorist or extremist organization, and we condemn such actions. These terrorists in Syria are trying to steal the revolution of the Syrian people, and we will continue to support the Syrian people until the elimination of terrorism there. The Syrian regime has been killing his people for years and the international community, unfortunately, failed to save Syrian people, he said.
Regarding Qatar’s role in the Sahel region and its position vis-a-vis extremist groups there, His Excellency said we are against any role of these groups and we condemn all their activities.
He pointed out that Qatar condemned all terrorist acts, whether in the Sahel region or all over the world through official statements. He added we support directly the Sahel countries to raise their capabilities and Qatar will continue to support the governments of those countries in carrying out reforms by their governments to ensure that they can bring in more stability for their countries.
His Excellency affirmed that Qatar has made great progress in the field of workers’ rights and has undertaken reforms in recent years in partnership with many international organizations such as the International Labor Organization, which now has an office in Qatar, pointing to keenness to ensure the implementation of laws by all operating institutions to reflect the development taking place.
On climate change and carbon neutralization, His Excellency announced that Qatar is now building a solar power plant that is considered one of the largest of its kind in the world, pointing out that the World Cup stadiums will be environmentally friendly.