Qatar foreign minister:'We have been anything but soft on terrorism'

Qatar has said it wants to resolve the diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf through dialogue, despite the "aggression" of its Arab critics.

Speaking in London, Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said he believed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were the "main driver" behind the campaign to isolate his country.

His comments came as Saudi and UAE ministers, together with those from Egypt and Bahrain, were meeting in Cairo to consider Qatar's response to their demands to resolve the situation.

Last month, the four nations cut ties with Qatar over its alleged support for extremist and close relations with Iran, issuing it with a 13-point set of demands with 10 days to comply.

The deadline, which expired on Monday, was subsequently extended for a further 48 hours at the request of Kuwait, which has been acting as mediator in the dispute.

In a speech to the Chatham House international affairs think tank, Sheikh Al Thani dismissed claims Qatar was "soft" on terrorism and accused the quartet of imposing a "blockade" on his country.

"The allegation that Qatar supports terrorism was clearly designed to generate anti-Qatar sentiment in the West. We have been anything but soft on terrorism," he said.

"We work with the intelligence and security services of the UK, the US and all of the countries in our region to bring terrorists and their supporters to justice."

The demands of the four include shutting down Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite news network, expelling Turkish military forces based in the country and paying restitution.

Sheikh Al Thani said Saudi Arabia and the UAE appeared to be the main countries pushing the campaign against his country.

"I think those are the countries we have to engage in what are the real motives and the real grievances behind it," he said. "

The main driver is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."

Ultimately, he suggested the dispute came down to the differences over the more open approach Qatar took to dealing with its own population.

"What other countries fail to grasp is labelling political opponents as terrorists merely to silence them regardless about how we feel about their agendas is both unjustified and fails to solve any problem," he said.

"Demonising people who are presenting legitimate grievances peacefully and oppressing movements advocating political change only drives well-meaning people into the arms of extremists."


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