tv Qatari Ambassador Speaks About Gulf Region Tensions CSPAN July 26, 2017 4:41pm-5:20pm EDT
>> overseas four arab countries have cut ties with qatar accusing the country of supporting terrorism. recently, qatar's defense minister said once the blockade is lifted, qatar officials will engage in dialogue. yesterday the country's ambassador to the u.s. talked about the effects to the blockade and the relationship with the neighbors and the united states. the discussion is about an hour. >> salah m
>>. [ speaking foreign language ] good evening, ladies and gentlemen. that deserves a round of applause. [ applause ] >> i am tony calfoster, president and ceo of the foreign affairs council. i welcome you to tonight's ambassador series. we are delighted we have six, seven, eight of our board members here tonight and we thank them for their surs. without you, these programs would not be takes place, so thank you, all of you, very much. many thanks to our strategic partners at the ronald reagan building in the international trade center for their hospitality and for providing us with this ven tou hold our public programs. if the early bird gets the first worm, then those who got here early tonight got the first 120 seats. we have another 80 people
downstairs in a spillover room who are watching tonight's broadcast on large screen. we are also very fortunate tonight that our events are being filmed for nationwide distribution on our own television show "world affairs today" which airs sunday afternoon on the world view channel. they are also distributed globally on youtube, facebook, linkedin, twitter and other digital platforms. in addition, tonight's program is being live streamed on a u.s. and global audience and will be immediately available on youtube. this will also be broadcasted by al jazeera. thank you to bill mccarron, the ceo of the national press club for providing us with his live streaming services tonight. thank you, bill. our event tonight focuses on the state of qatar. its relationship with the united
states, and the role it plays in the persian gulf region and the nation's activities, as a member of the gulf cooperation council. qatar has been ruled by the family since the mid-19th century. the flag of qatar contains nine serrated edges that separate the colored and the white portions. they signify qatar's inclusion as the ninth member of the reconciled emirates of the persian gulf at the conclusion of the qatari-british treaty in 1916. the colored portion of the flag known as the color maroon alsoaalso acknowledges the purple dye. the white, of course, symbolizes peace. originally known for being a back order british protectorate
whose economy was based mainly on diving, qatar quickly made itself known to the world when it declared independence in 1971. in 1995, qatar announced a series of sweeping economic and political reforms. this included the founding and the funding of the pan-arab satellite news network al jazeera in 1996 that broadcast worldwide. an economic surplus enabled qatar to rebrand and launch qatar airways and support the founding of education city. a globally recognized state of the art, academic oasis on the capital doha. it holds schools from the united
states, britain, france and qatar. these include our 14s at georgetown university, carnegie melon, cornell, virginia commonwealth, northwestern university, hcc paris, and ucl london. in terms of transparency that we are very big on at the world affairs council, we should inform you that we have had a long and valued relationship with the state of qatar during the 38 years since our founding. the qatar foundation was the recipient of our 2014 global education award that was accepted on behalf of the foundation by sheikh amosa. they've had ambassador programs and supported our national world affairs honors and global
education gala. qatar's population is -- question, anybody know? you just googled it. ruled out of bounds. all right. it's 2 million, 258, 283 people and out of that number, 11.6% our native qataris and 88.4% are non-qataris. bilateral relations between the united states and qatar are strong. qatar hosts the u.s. military central command and they're deployed in qatar and actively supports the so-called islamic state. it serves as qatar's largest investor and these include
aircraft, machinery, vehicles, medical instruments and agricultural products. qatar is an active member of the u.n., world bank and gulf cooperation council. it has also been selected to host the 2022 fifa world cup. another round of applause! [ applause ] wonderful. now to our distinguished guests, sheikh al tahani is a career diplomat with more than 20 years of experience. he presented his credentials to president trump on april 24, 2017. ambassador al tahani has previously served for three years as the ambassador to france. he's also served as qatar's permanent representative to the
u.n. he's chaired the qatari mission to the eu in brussels and served as qatari official liaison to nato. he is a graduate of american university, received his masters degree in international relations in 2004. tonight, i'm pleased to introduce another friend to our world affairs council family. the managing editor of usa today is our discussing for this evening. donna has served as an editor and reporter for breaking news. her assignments have covered everything from domestic and international crimes, the war on terror, national disaster. donna is the past president of the national press club, previously served as chairman of the board of governors. she serves on the board of visitors for the university of north carolina at chapel hill
school of journalism and mass communications. also, on the board of the national press foundation where we serve together. a graduate of the university gra chapel hill, she has completed journalistic law school at loyola university, the paul miller fellowship at the national journalism foundation and the casey fellowships at university of maryland. we are deeply honored to welcome the ambassador to the world affairs counsel d.c. podium as part of our 2017 ambassador series. [ applause ]
good evening, ladies and gentlemen. i would like to thank the board and team who did an excellent job organizing this event and for their unwaivering commitment to education and providing a platform for open dialogue. ladies and gentlemen, if you have been following the news from the region, i am sure you are well aware that qatar is now under a blockade. have imposed an illegal political, economic and social blockade against my country. these countries decided overnight to close down all borders and air space, stop the
flow of all food and medicine during the holy month of ramadan and expel all citizens from their countries. yet, these steps were not enough for them. they forcefully recalled their citizens from qatar, tearing families apart, mothers from their children and wives from their husbands. and to silence their people from speaking out, they have imposed laws that threaten people with a 15 years jail sentence for just sympathizing with qatar. this is distressing at a human level. saudi arabia, the eu and bar ran are toying with the lives of people. i'm sure you are wondering what instigating these inhuman actions. this all began when individuals in the united arab emirates
decided to launch a cyber attack against qatar news agency. during this attack, a fabricated statement was released. this fabricated statement was broadcasted on saudi and em rat news outlets, even after qatar's statement declaring the news false. it is also crucial to note the media was blocked in these countries hours before the cyber attack, ensuring that people could not access the truth. this carefully orchestrated cyber attack was used to justify their illegal and inhuman blockade against the people of qatar. one of the main questions i have been asked since the beginning of this crisis is why. why have they taken such extreme measures to silence qatar?
unfortunately, the countries have never revealed the true intentions behind these actions. they have never shed any of their concerns with us, nor given us a chance to address any problems they may have. three weeks after enforcing their unwarranted blockade and only after pressure from the united states and the international community, they submit their list of so-called demands. the 13 demands were not reasonable and actionable as the united states had hoped. instead, these demands would have forced qatar to curtail free press and free speech, hand over individuals to be jailed and tortured, reduce our defense capabilities, disregard and go against international law, outsource and submit our foreign policy to ree had and abu dhabi
and sign an open check to the blockading countries for what they describe as compensation. they are demanding compensation to bail them out for losses they endured due to their failed policies. what these blockading countries are demanding is a surrender of our sovereignty as the price of ending the siege. i would like to draw your attention to what i believe are the true motives behind this aggression. in a statement that saudi ambassador to jordan said two weeks ago, we have been patient -- i quote. we have been patient for 21 years with a country that is smaller than a neighborhood in riya riyadh. what happened 20 years ago that has tried their patience for so long? it was in 1996 that qatar began
its transformation and decided to focus on development, by investing in our own people and building a knowledge based economy. it is when we abolished censorship and created a platform for free media and free speech. it is when we introduced social and political reform. it is when we empowered women. it is when we decided that our foreign policy should focus on mediation, rather than confrontation as a solution to the challenges facing our region. as mark twain has said, there are a few things that are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. it is worth highlighting that the transformations in qatar were viewed as a threat by certain governments. a woman in saudi arabia could not question why it is that in qatar, a country with a similar
religious and social background a woman can drive. but in saudi, she cannot. to distract from their own shortcoming, the blockading countries have accused qatar of supporting terrorism. these unsubstantiating actions are just a smoke screen created to infringe upon sovereignty and punish them for their independence. our international partners know that qatar is relentless in its fight against terrorism. we will be a partner to the united states in combatting this threat with our troops working hand in hand in the fight against isis. and our efforts have not gone unrecognized. the state department reports that the united states and qatar maintain a strong partnership in the fight against terrorism. and after signing a miu with the united states aimed at
establishing -- aimed at disabling terror finance, secretary tillerson praised qatar for being the first to respond to president trump's challenge to stop the funding of terrorism. terrorism poses just as much as a threat to qatar as the united states and every other nation and that is why our threat to resolve this is unwaivering. terrorists are made. they are not born. that is why we have developed a wholistic approach to combatting terrorism. that is why we have developed two american bases in qatar, a military base, which everyone is familiar with, but more importantly an educational base. by creating an educational hub in qatar that includes some of the best american institutions from georgetown university to northwestern university that spread american values, we are
directly combatting the root causes of terrorism. hopelessness and lack of education and opportunity. locating countries should remember that when they join -- when they point the finger at qatar, three fingers are pointing back to them. these countries accuse us of supporting terrorism, yet it was saudi who was behind 9/11 attacks. it is saudi who has been highly and repeatedly scrutinized by the international community for their spreading of extremism. tts it is the uae who have been repeatedly listed by the u.s. state department as a country of primary concern in the state department's money laundering and financial crimes report. they accuse us of destabilizing the region.
it is the uae, not qatar, who the international committee has been critical of for their destabilizing role in libya and repeated violations of the international arms embargo and it is e kwipt who has accused its current status on the un security council to put a hold to add isis to the united nations sanctioned list. what these countries have done is make any act of their status quo terrorism. a woman driving a car in saudi arabia is tried in court. these actions show the real work that needs to be done to counter terrorism and extremism in the region. this crisis will not be resolved by surprising media and opposing viewpoints. instead, we must all put our concerns on the table and have an open and factual discussion about the issues affecting our
region. unfortunately the blockading countries have yet to show any genuine will for a dialogue. ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you what are the consequences of this blockade against qatar. it has damaged the image in the world. it has undermined the fight against terrorism and derailed our efforts. it has attorney families apart and silenced reasonable voices. and contrary to hopes of the blockading countries, the blockade has also made qatar stronger, resilient and more united. it has helped us diversefy our economy and forge new partnership and it has intensified our determination to stand with people against tyrants and dictators. thank you again for giving me this platform and i look forward to answering any questions you may have.
[ applause ] >> i'll start off with a few questions and then we'll take some questions from the audience. i wanted to start with the reasons behind the blockade. so you have said that -- it sounded from your remarks that you think that the cyber attack and the remarks were pretense, that that really wasn't what was behind it, that you think it was the reforms. but, again, that was 21 years ago. these reforms have been underway for a long time. what do you think really prompted this reaction, the immediate reaction? why now? >> thank you very much for this question. as i mentioned in my speech and
my opening remarks earlier, this was an attempt from me personally to try to understand the motives behind this aggression against qatar. the only example was given is by the saudi ambassador in jordan that i had tried to think and tried to understand where they are coming from. this resentment that has been there for 20 years. now, what happened a couple -- last month is obviously something has been planned for some time. we have been part of the riyadh summit where it was a successful summit. we participated in it. we have signed on the establishment of counter terrorism center. none of the countries the summit raised any concerns with us. so we are still puzzled on the real motivations. but i tried to talk about this to analyze their -- from their speeches what exactly their
motive is. could be also that qatar is trying to promote a policy that is based on mediation and mutual understanding versus a policy of confrontation. so, again, they have not give us any clear answer for why they did that. >> have you thought at all about possible economic motivations? for example, your natural gas deal with iran, which may be a threat to saudi arabia. >> before i go into answering the question, maybe it is useful to give a background information on what you just mentioned, our deal with iran. the relation with iran is in line of the corporation counsel. so, in fact, uae has more relations with iran than we do. 96.7% of the trade is with uae.
what we have with the iran is we share the natural gas fields. so 25% to 30% of the energy going out to the world is coming from our share. so normally we need to have lines of communication with iran to understand how this relationship should be dealt with. so i don't think that it has anything to do with iran's relation and qatar. so we have around 18 flights to go to iran. they have 80 flights a week to go to taharan. they have more investments with them than we do. so i cannot understand that iran is part of this issue. >> so you mentioned that this -- this feud, this blockade, is sort of undermining what the world thinks of the gulf nations, that it's tarnishing
the image. early on in this conflict, you wrote an op ed in the wall street journal and you repeated some of your remarks today where you mentioned the uae and saudi arabia's roles in 9/11. tomorrow the united arab emirates is basically going to respond with a documentary that accuses qatar of, you know, fostering terrorism. again, this back and forth, this back and forth, this tarnishing of images, you know, it takes two to tan go or five countries to keep going back and forth and tarnishing one another. at what point does qatar have a responsibility to try and put an end to it by cutting off its remarks and is there a way that you can sort of stop the public feuding? >> first of all, i was just
stating facts in my wall street journal. i am not trying to tarnish any country's image. again, what i have raised are facts. now, the uae is coming up with, as you mentioned, a piece on 9/11. again, you are dealing with a country that already initiated a cyber attack. some individuals from there initiated a cyber attack against qatar. so -- and posted a fabricated story. so we need to think twice of anything coming from there because, again, the whole crisis that erupted in the gulf was based on a fabricated story. so what makes everything coming from their side is a legitimate story. >> so if you keep going back and forth, how does it end? i mean, how do you -- you know, what was your motivation in bringing -- bringing up the -- the role in 9/11 if not to
provoke them? >> no. i was just answering to -- i was just answering to an article wrote by the uae ambassador trying to portray qatar as a terrorist harbor country, finance -- supports finances to terrorists. and i just wanted to remind them exactly what are the facts are and what's the truth and just to state that i think he should -- he should think twice before accusing people in such a crime. >> so you have explained to us qatar's relationship with iran. can you explain a little bit about qatar's relationship with turkey, which has also seemed to have wrinkled the four other countries. >> well, the relation with
turkey is a very strong relation as the other countries do have a strong relation. we have strategy dialogue. so this relation is in the context of gcc but also we have a great and strong relation bilaterally with turkey. turkey is a nato member. we have close coordination with nato and that's the context of the relation. >> why do you think that relationship with nato bothers them? >> i really don't know. maybe this is a question for them to answer. >> okay. so you have had a whole range of diplomats coming to try and mediate, some diplomats from europe, secretary tillerson, most recently president erduwan. what have you been talking
about? tell us about the negotiations and what are the biggest sticking points? >> well so far we have been trying as qatar to be as constructive as possible and approach this with a very mature way. we are asking the four countries to come and sit on the table and discuss their grievances. so far, unfortunately, they have been not receptive. we have made our best to address the 13 so-called demands, which were -- were very difficult for anyone to accept. but just to show the good will of qatar, we have addressed them point by point and unfortunately they dismissed them in cairo in their meeting. we continued to ask the mediators, state of kuwait, to try to find a way in order to
sit on the table and discuss our grievances. >> so what do you think -- what's the next step? >> the next step is in their hand. again, we have clearly set -- his highness address the qatar people a couple of days ago and stated in his address that we are willing to sit and discuss based on open and frank and factual dialogue. so we will look forward for them to engage with kuwait, with the united states in order to sit and discuss our differences. >> okay. so the other day in an interview, i think it was yesterday actually, the russian foreign minister, sergei lavrov said he would be willing to come and do some diplomatic interference. is that something qatar would
welcome? >> we have a fight against terrorism we need to focus on, and this is distracting everyone. i think this is unnecessary provoked aggression against my country. so i think not only russia is trying to help but europe is also trying to help. france is trying to help. germany is trying to help. so qatar is welcoming any support that will bring the four countries to the table to discuss our grievances. >> so in the most recent state department report, the u.s. concluded that qatar does have, and i quote, a strong partnership in the fight against terrorism. you have passed many laws. you belong to many working groups. but the one sticking point that some of the countries have raised is the support of -- by qatar of the muslim brotherhood, which is something that has been part of qatar's policy for many,
many years. can you first of all explain to us how you see muslim brother ho brotherhood and why you think that alliance is not a problem? >> first of all, it is not an alliance. it's -- maybe it's good to give you some background information and for the audience. this is a perception that has been created about qatar by uae and saudi arabia that we are supporting this islamic brotherhood. qatar works with government, does not work with parties. our support goes to the people of that country. we try to support institutions in those countries. i can give you a great example of our experience with tunisia.
qatar worked with tunisia. today qatar continues to work with tunisia while there is more liberal government. so our commitment, our support is not to parties. it is to the countries we support the explorations of people. but at the end of the day, we are dealing with governments. >> so tell us a little bit about al jazeera and what you see as al jazeera ra's mission. what do you think that saudi arabia and e kwipt and bahrain and uae find threatening about al jazeera. >> i can't speak on behalf of them. but i can tell you that what we have decided to have in qatar is to promote free media and free press and that's what we have
embarked on since 1996. a lot of people focus on al jazeera, but they don't look at also the issues we are having in our local media. there are some programs that also have a great freedom of maneuver and expression and so that's where we stand on the issue of free media and free expression of speech. what i think they are afraid of is they are afraid of having -- being criticized. i think what they want is to not have the truth come out. they don't want stories like the story came out in ap regarding torture prisons in yemen.
that's what they want to sur press, i believe. >> so i think i'm going to have to challenge you a little bit on press freedom. so freedom house every year takes a look at the countries around the world and has given qatar, i would say, mediocre to low marks on press freedom. there was some legislation that was proposed and has been through many councils and the shake has not signed it yet that would broaden press freedom. some of the issues include outlying criticism of the ruling family, of the government and of islam. so that's really not what i would consider to be complete press freedom. where do you think qatar still needs to go? >> it's true. i mean, i didn't say that we have a complete, but i can tell you that we are on the right track, and we are working in the right direction.
you in the u.s. have not reached where you are over 20 years. it took you some many years to reach here. >> we're still litigating. >> and we are also trying to grow and enhance ourselves. but i think what matters, that we are on the right path. so we are always welcome advice and support from freedom house or any organization to fix our own progress. >> and where would you say qatar is in relation to other gulf countries when it comes to both women's rights and press freedom? >> if i tell you, i'm going to be looked as bias. >> it is your chance. >> well, i think we have reached good levels of development on this -- on this level. again, women and qatar are free to determine their own lives.
that is very important. i think we -- we still need to do more work. but we are still determined to do it. we will continue to work to enhance our legislations, to progress our society. >> okay. so moving away from press freedom for a second, i want to go back to the blockade. can you tell me a little bit about what the humanitarian situation is? you said that the shake did address the people of qatar. in what ways are they suffering? in what ways are you working around the blockade? >> the most critical aspect of this blockade is the humanitarian aspect. so we have around 13,000 complaints of separation of families. there is a lot of intermanages between the countries.
unfortunately, with the latest laws that have been enacted, there are women from qatar living with their husbands in the ue have to leave the ue. we have some cases with kids are separated from their moms. we have cases where fathers are separated from their families. so i think what we are in qatar trying to focus on a primary objective is to find a relief from this humanitarian crisis. >> and where has help come from so far? >> in terms of the humanitarian? >> uh-huh. have you gotten any food assistance. >> we leave now to take you live to the white house where president trump is expected to make an announcement on jobs. live coverage on c-span