CAIRO: Diplomats from Qatar and the four states boycotting it exchanged heated words at an Arab League meeting on Tuesday.
Tensions flared after Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi discussed the boycott in his opening speech despite the Gulf dispute not being on the agenda. He called the Gulf monarchy’s critics “rabid dogs”.
“Even the animals were not spared, you sent them out savagely,” Muraikhi said, referring to the thousands of camels left stranded on the border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia after borders were closed.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, suspending air and shipping routes with the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, which is home to the region’s biggest US military base.
The nations say Doha supports regional foe Iran and militants. Qatar denies the charges and calls the economic boycott a ‘siege’ aimed at neutering an independent foreign policy it says promotes peaceful regional reform and fighting terrorism. Kuwait has been trying to mediate the dispute.
During his speech, Muraikhi referred to Iran as an “honourable country” and said ties had warmed with its neighbour since the blockade.
In response, Ahmed al-Qattan, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the Arab League, said: “Congratulations to Iran and soon, God willing, you will regret it.”
The exchange descended into a row during which Muraikhi and Qattan each told the other to be quiet.
Muraikhi said Saudi Arabia was looking to depose the Emir of Qatar and replace him with Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who helped negotiate the entry of Qatari pilgrims attending the annual Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
“This is an improper thing to say because the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will never resort to such cheap methods and we don’t want to change the regime, but you must also know that the kingdom can do anything it wants, God willing,” Qattan said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Muraikhi’s comments were unacceptable. “We all know Qatar’s historic support for terrorism and what has been provided for extremist factions, and money in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt that have led to the death of many of Egypt’s sons,” Shoukry said.
Qatar backed a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt before it was overthrown by the military in 2013. The Arab states have demanded Qatar severed any links with the Brotherhood and other groups they deem to be terrorist, ideological or sectarian.