Qatar says it will not negotiate unless neighbours lift 'blockade'
By Tom Finn and John Irish
DOHA/PARIS (Reuters) - Qatar will not negotiate with its neighbours to resolve the Gulf dispute unless they first lift the trade and travel boycott they imposed two weeks ago, its foreign minister said, but added Doha still believed a solution was possible.
The United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain imposed the measures to isolate Qatar, said the sanctions could last for years unless Doha accepted demands that the Arab powers plan to reveal in coming days.
Qatar has denied accusations by its neighbours that it funds terrorism, foments regional instability or has cosied up to their enemy Iran. The dispute has opened a rift among some of the main U.S. allies in the Middle East, with President Donald Trump backing tough measures against Qatar even as his State Department and Defense Department have sought to remain neutral.
On Monday Qatar held war games with Turkish troops, showing off one of its few remaining strong alliances after two weeks of unprecedented isolation.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Doha was ready to "engage and address" the concerns of other Gulf Arab states in what he described as a proper dialogue with pre-determined principles, but reiterated that sanctions must be lifted first.
"Until now we didn't see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the condition for anything to move forward," Sheikh Mohammed said. The countries that imposed the sanctions have denied that they amount to a blockade.
Sheikh Mohammed said he planned to travel to Washington next week to discuss the economic effect of the "blockade" and its effects on the global fight against terrorism.
"We have a very strong partnership with the U.S. We are partners together in the global coalition of countering terrorism. We have been talking to them since the crisis started," he said. Continued...