There was uncertainty of the siege countries’ intention during the Riyadh Summit in May, which involved US President Donald Trump, former former prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani has said.
Speaking at an interview of a TV show, the former minister said that the fake statement attributed the Emir was to justify a certain thing, noting that he does not want to enter into its details.
He added: “I have a question that puzzled me: Did we need all these media programmes for several days especially as we were telling them that this statement is fabricated.”
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim explained that he was of the belief at the beginning and after the fabricated statement that there will be a media attack for certain purposes and reasons… and the reason was the fake statement attributed to His Highness the Emir. They did not need to fabricate because it is a legal offence and not at the level of States and individuals belonging to countries doing such work to enter the next phase .. They could start with a statement or a clear speech about their justification for the work they are doing .. I think this was a technical error and consumption for several days before entering the second phase.”
He added that the siege was not because of the statement and there was a clear plan behind this. He expressed surprise that there was no sense of problem during the summit in which the Emir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani also participated.
The former prime minister noted that he did not find any role of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in this crisis. He said: “We did not see the GCC officials in this crisis. I wish I could see them in this crisis even if they held Qatar responsible or even called for a meeting to discuss the crisis. This has not happened.”
“We cannot impose opinions by force, especially as we look forward to attracting investors, changing our education or health system, taking care of jobs, creating a better life for our people and raising the per capita income of GCC states”, he stressed.
“In this crisis we know our friend and our enemy. And the manner in which His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has managed the crisis shows his wisdom. His Highness has managed the crisis with serenity and power. His Highness is of a generation we are proud of and proud to hand over the power to this generation. And the staff that work with him have worked with him diligently and honestly and showed us many talents and new ideas. And this crisis has brought many good people in this country. Also, His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has brought people together and taken care of their daily issues from the first minute and the first hour”.
“I pray to Allah that this shameful crisis ends with reason and wisdom, and I count on King Salman to take the initiative, with the Saudi position, to overcome this situation in the way we know between us and not in the way that some want, because this method will not succeed”.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim added: “We know that Saudi Arabia is the big sister and we respect and appreciate, and it must also take into account the small countries in the region. I always say that Saudi Arabia is the backbone of the GCC, but we should take our differences and deal with other countries on a clear basis”.
Responding to a question regarding the failed coup attempt in 1996, in which some parties of the current crisis were also a part of, the former minister said that it was clear that failed coup attempt was meant to change the regime inaugurated by the people of Qatar. When Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani assumed power, it was welcomed and approved by all. We do not need the approval of anyone to inaugurate the Emir in Qatar, and we do not need recognition or support from anyone”, he said, adding, however, the four countries recognised it.
“After getting permission from His Highness the Father Emir to talk with the late King Fahd, who I respect so much and who wanted to speak with me via telephone, King Fahd told me that he wanted me to go to Egypt and Syria after the change in Qatar. After that I spoke with His Highness the Father Emir, who told me that he had no objection. I went to Egypt and spoke to the officials there. Following that, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak called His Highness the Father Emir and congratulated him. Then I went to Syria and met with president Hafez al-Assad, who had a different point of view…. that we do not need the approval of anyone, this is something that belongs to us just as they are in Syria”.
“When the change took place, things were clear. We started to feel at the Muscat summit when we wanted to nominate a Qatari candidate for the position of secretary general of the GCC, Abdulrahman al-Attiyah. They said no, there was a Saudi candidate. Then His Highness the Father Emir gave no objection to that, but said let us agree that they should ask us to withdraw our candidate even when our candidate was the first to submit his nomination and there are agreements with some GCC countries to nominate him. When the Saudis said we do not want to send the request to withdraw the Qatari candidate, then we felt that there is a problem other than the issue of the secretary-general. There is a will to create a problem with the new regime in Qatar”.
“After the Muscat summit, we began to see conspiracies from the four countries…and leaks by some conspirators began, and there were intelligence and specialised bodies that began to reveal things clearly until the conspiracy was uncovered. In these conspiracies, there were prisoners, including military prisoners from a brotherly country and were in Doha. After a period of time, there were requests from the then Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Sultan and an official letter requesting to pardon these prisoners and to end this problem. His Highness the Father Emir accepted that request and pardoned them, although there were judicial verdicts against them”.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said: “Although there was tension between us and these countries, there was a minimum of mutual respect, so there is no harm to the symbols, pointing out that King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz told him this is villainy, and we do not want to engage in any plot, and then handed over the conspirators, who took refuge in Saudi Arabia, to Qatar. We, in recognition of his request and his position, pardoned prisoners”.
He added: “I cannot say that everyone in Saudi Arabia participated in this plot, as there were some who didn’t accept it. We discovered that countries that must not interfere in internal affairs took weapons from one country to another through planes and had stockpiled. All of these were documented by photographers and there was an international party that was a witness to what happened and then there were face-to-face meetings and we solved this crisis. Some senior official in Saudi Arabia, who is still now there, told me: ‘I cannot blame you in some of the issues that you have taken, we also did things that we should not do’. This senior official is there now and I do not want to name him in order to preserve relations and preserve what can be preserved. Unfortunately, there’s nothing can be preserved after all what has happened”
Speaking about the real reasons that forced Saudi Arabia and the UAE to isolate Qatar in the Gulf, the former leader expressed surprise at this policy because Qatar had developed good relationship with Abu Dhabi over the years. Regardless of differences that occurred in the past, there was a privacy in relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and there was a back channel due to the strength of this relationship.
He added: “This privacy in relations has always been playing a role in solving the problems, whether the mistake is by Qatar or Saudi Arabia because the former kings of Saudi Arabia intervened clearly and the issue get resolved because they consider themselves the big brother. Qatar also considers them the big brother and the backbone of the Gulf Co-operation Council. That is why there was a kind of solution to any problem and on a sound basis and not just words”.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said that he had close and good relations with many officials at the time in Abu Dhabi. He expressed his surprise “at this campaign” from Abu Dhabi because “if there is an attempt against Qatar from other parties or in other regions or as mentioned by WikiLeaks, we have to look for the reason behind that. If the reason is the success that has taken place in Qatar during the past period, I think this should have been a catalyst for them as I had said that Dubai was a model in certain things for Qatar and the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries. Why don’t brothers help each other to progress instead of trying to defeat them.”
He added: “GCC countries need several capitals for issues such as economic, sports, political or social issues, and the Gulf population is small. Why do we compete and waste a lot of money instead of using this money for the benefit of our people and developing them Why do we use the money to defeat a parson in an election or defeat a case here or there.”
He noted that Qatar had given up more than once in favour of Gulf and Arab states. This was often the case. “There was a Gulf and Arab consensus at one point that HE Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Attiyah become a secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. Saudi Arabia asked us to withdraw that and the State of Qatar immediately withdrew the nomination. We also gave up in the Arab League. In the past, we submitted more than 18 written papers asking that the secretary-general of the Arab League be selected through election, and when we were asked to give up this paper, Qatar gave up and did not nominate for the post of secretary-general, especially that Egypt has just emerged from the January 25 revolution and our goal was why not be an Egyptian”.
He said: “When Qatar nominated a person for a certain post they always demanded that it withdraw and we met that demand or they work against it to thwart our request, despite the fact that there is always a decision in the GCC to stand with any Gulf nomination and this is not a custom but a written system in the GCC.”
On Al Jazeera
The former minister said that the channel was started with an aim to be heard by all Arabs and non-Arabs, and be as neutral as possible. He also revealed that he was one among them who participated in the establishment of Al Jazeera based on the instructions of his Highness the Father Emir at the time.
He said: “After two or three years of founding, I felt regretful because of the many problems that it caused to the State of Qatar because it adhered to a certain line and this line was harmful to us in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the State, because there are certain Arab countries that were not used to freedom of expression.”
With regard to the UAE’s incitement to bomb Al Jazeera, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said when journalists wanted to go to Iraq in 2003, Al Jazeera was in one way or another in Iraq. The Americans told us that it is better to have all the journalists in Kuwait to enter with the other journalists, when we asked them why, the Americans said they would prefer that they be with other journalists. There was a trick that we did not know as all the journalists were brought into Iraq except Al Jazeera journalists and this was justified by various arguments”.
He pointed out that at this time there was a news channel that broadcast from the UAE, namely, Abu Dhabi channel, in addition to Al Arabiya channel. They were given preference in agreement with the Americans. He added after a period of time Al Jazeera journalists managed to enter Iraq from others ways and began to work and write their press reports from there. “Then we were surprised and asked why they accepted their entry. The Americans said that they asked us to do so and there must be more channels than they compete together and there was a stand against Al Jazeera”.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani pointed out: “There may be things that Al Jazeera has dealt with, or which it may have talked about, which may be unusual in our Arab region and it was put forward with such openness.”
He expressed his belief that the existence of errors in Al Jazeera was because “The channel moved from “No freedom to freedom” …..chaos occurs, which happened in some programmes and with some guests”.
He said: “We always discussed these matters without interference in editorial policy. It was the commitment of His Highness the Father Emir not interfere in editorial policy. We understood many of these demands or anger from some countries. Many issues have been resolved face-to-face that do not require a conspiracy, because Al Jazeera’s position even on the subject of Yemen, Syria, Libya and the Arab Spring has pros and cons. Therefore, if it was criticised. I have to be fair and talk about the positive aspects of Al Jazeera, which opened a horizon for the Arab citizen to know the truth”.
His Highness the Father Emir wanted Al Jazeera to be a voice for the Arab citizen to know what is going on in the Arab world, so its news about Qatar was few or nonexistent at that time because it was talking about the whole Arab world and was a real inconvenience to us and caused the withdrawal of a number of ambassadors”, he noted.
On the role played by Qatar in resolving the political dispute in the past between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the former prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said: “There was a border dispute on a tripartite point between the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Saudi Arabia had a point of view. This was one of the issues. There were demands on the border between them. I was appointed by His Highness the Father Emir. We held a meeting for them and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nahyan, UAE minister of foreign affairs at the time, came with us, and this issue was settled in the presence of His Highness the Father Emir”.
On the previous dispute between Qatar and Abu Dhabi, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, said during a visit to Egypt that the people of Qatar do not exceed the population of one of the neighbourhoods of Egypt. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said: “When this statement was issued, I was at a meeting in Kuwait, and I was surprised by this statement because there were no reasons for this. We ended our meeting and returned to Doha. His Highness the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani told me if you want to respond, it has to be a positive response and the response was positive and it was that Sheikh Zayed is the father of all.”
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said: “After that Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the heir apparent at the time, visited Doha and he had a strong personal relationship with His Highness the Father Emir and there was mutual trust, and Sheikh Khalifa said the statement was made in a way that was intended on this subject, adding with our respect for Sheikh Zayed as an old man and a leader of a state, we did not have a response other than what was said.
The former diplomat told that he met Sheikh Zayed during the preparation of a conference of the GCC and said to him very positive words and this indicates that he did not have any hatred of the State of Qatar.
Responding to claims that Qatar remains subordinate to some countries, the former minister said that the dominance of states existed earlier, but reduced due to the global polarisation of the Soviet Union and the US. “After the creation of the United Nations, justice and law began to take hold, except for the Palestinian question and some issues that have complexities different from the complexities we are currently talking about”.
He said, “Fist there is a very important point. Has Qatar one day said it is a match for Saudi Arabia. They match each other in terms of dignity, brotherhood and rights. We know that Saudi Arabia is bigger and stronger. I criticised some writers who talk about small and big issue which should no longer be an issue. Now if a democratic state dominates in the Gulf, big or small, and if it wants to spread justice and dominate, this can be logical. But international law is known. The same flags are hoisted at the United Nations and if we look at Hong Kong, which was a British colony, and China, which has 1,300mn people and a great power, it did not attack Taiwan and did not attack Hong Kong. Taiwan didn’t return to China, and Beijing has always been talking about the political solution, and when Hong Kong separated through an agreement though China can annex it without even taking military intervention. Of course it did not do that”.
He said there are many examples in the world, such as Singapore, a newly established state and a small country. “It lives among powerful countries but it is legally viable country as it is an independent country with a membership in the Asean and the United Nations. It is working together with its neighbours though it is better and more advanced, but its neighbours admiringly look at it and know where their borders are with it because they all follow the law. Another example is Monaco or Luxembourg or Canada and there are many examples in the world”.
The former prime minister and foreign minister expressed regret that he did not see any role for the Gulf Co-operation Council in the current Gulf crisis. “We did not see the GCC officials in this crisis. I wish I could see them in this crisis even if they held Qatar responsible or even called for a meeting to discuss the crisis but this hasn’t happened”.
“We cannot impose opinions by force, especially as we look forward to attracting investors, changing our educational or health system, caring for jobs, creating a better life for our people and raising the income of the individual in the GCC, he added. In all of our countries there were mistakes in the use of wealth in the past, but there are countries that changed this and created a new environment to better work through the law and developed incomes. Why do we talk about a large and small (country), and that the small has to accept us or act with you in a non-civilised way or stir problems between tribes The issue is over, and we must act as states”, he said.