By Ahmed Yusuf
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lolwah al-Khater said that her country -- and its plan to host the 2022 Football World Cup -- had not been affected by its yearlong diplomatic standoff with a four-nation Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia.
Stressing that Qatar still planned to host the 2022 World Cup, al-Khater said that her country had “dealt with the effects of the [Saudi-led] blockade and was now dealing with all its affairs as usual”.
In June of last year, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain collectively severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups.
The Saudi-led axis also imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar, with Riyadh sealing the Abu Samra border crossing linking the two Gulf states.
The four-nation Arab bloc also presented Doha with a long list of demands, which included the closure of the Al Jazeera television channel and the shutting down of a Turkish military base in Qatar.
Qatar, for its part, has vociferously denied the accusations of terrorism, describing the ongoing blockade by its fellow Arab states as a violation of international law.
It has also steadfastly refused to comply with the demands laid down by the Saudi-led axis.
“We marked the embargo’s [one-year] anniversary a few weeks ago,” al-Khater said. “Politically, we have generally moved beyond the blockade phase.”
She went on to assert that Qatar was -- regardless of the blockade -- now in the process of forging long-term relationships and strategic partnerships with a number of countries.
“Qatar has concluded several international agreements that will enhance its presence in the fields of electronic security and investment," al-Khater said.
She also praised Kuwaiti mediation efforts, but said little progress had been made in this regard.
As for the difficulties encountered by Qatari pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, she described this as “an unfortunate issue on all levels”, stressing every Muslim’s right to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages -- regardless of political issues.
She also called on Riyadh to deal with what she described as anti-Qatar “hate speech” in its media, which, she said, posed a concern for the safety of Qatari nationals in Saudi Arabia.
“There is no diplomatic representation by which the State of Qatar can deal with the affairs of Qatari pilgrims,” al-Khater said.
Ties with Turkey
Al-Khater hailed her country’s strong ties with Turkey, noting that next year both countries would celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations.
“Arab states in general have opened up to Turkey,” she said, describing Ankara as “an important contributor to stability that has helped restore balance to the region”.
Regarding Ankara’s role in the ongoing Gulf crisis, al-Khater pointed out that Turkey had rushed to Doha’s support by rapidly -- and without hesitation -- sending badly-needed commodities to blockaded Qatar.
She also praised the Turkish parliament’s decision last year to deploy troops to Qatar, saying the move reflected the two countries’ “strategic partnership”.
“Turkey played an active role since the first day [of the crisis], which was deeply appreciated -- especially on the political level,” al-Khater said.
“Today, if you ask any Qatari citizen how they view Turkey, they will express their appreciation,” she added.
“And when we visit Turkey, we are welcomed by ordinary people who show a keen interest in Qatar.”