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Qatar Blames Saudi Arabia and UAE for Crisis While Rivals Meet in Cairo

By VOA News July 05, 2017

Qatar's foreign minister blamed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for leading the embargo against the Gulf state in a speech on Wednesday, the same day the group of nations that cut ties with Qatar met in Cairo to plot their next move.

"We believe that this entire campaign is merely driven by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and these are the countries that we need to engage to find out what are the real problems and what are the real grievances," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told an audience at London's Chatham House, according to Reuters.

Al-Thani's comments came a month after four countries severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar over concerns the oil-rich Gulf state is supporting extremism. Qatar denies the allegations.

Food, normally imported from Arab neighbors, has been airlifted into Qatar by allies like Turkey and Iran, while shipping costs into Qatar have increased by a factor of ten, according to Sheikh Mohammed. Moodys rating agency downgraded the state's outlook from stable to negative, citing "the likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018."

The Arab states also issued a 13-point list of demands on June 22, asking, among other things, for Qatar to abandon ties with Iran, shut down the Turkish military base it hosts, and shutter Al-Jazeera news bureaus.

Qatar gave its response to the demands on Monday. Although it has not formally disclosed the the contents of that response, Sheikh Mohammed called the demands "unrealistic" on Tuesday.

In London, he warned the group of Arab states against "demanding that we must surrender our sovereignty as the price for ending the siege," and argued the sanctions are really part of a long-running gambit for regime change in Qatar.

"Beginning in April, Qatar was subjected to a carefully orchestrated and unprecedented smear campaign designed to misrepresent our policies and our positions," Sheikh Mohammed said. "Furthermore, officials from the blockading countries were not merely criticizing Qatar, Qatar's policy, something we have always welcomed, but they were calling for regime change in Qatar, a coup and inciting hate and violence."

He also added, "We welcome any serious efforts to resolve our differences with our neighbors."

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Soukry hosted representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain in central Cairo to mull their next move in the crisis.

Earlier Wednesday, the Saudi foreign ministry said they would respond "at the right time" to the answer Qatar gave their demands.

United States President Donald Trump also stepped into the fray on Wednesday, speaking over the phone to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sissi about the crisis. According to the White House, Trump called on Egypt and the other Arab states to negotiate with Qatar in good faith to bring the deepening crisis to a swift and peaceful conclusion.

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