By Eric Knecht
DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar’s ruler said on Tuesday that a political and economic boycott of his country by larger neighbours had weakened a Gulf Arab bloc at a time of regional instability, but he voiced hope the crisis would pass.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani outlined Qatar’s economic achievements over the past year despite sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia and four Arab states since June 2017, saying the tiny but wealthy country would preserve its status as the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut transport and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and their foe Iran. Doha denies the charges and says the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.
“History teaches us that crises pass, but if they are handled badly then this may leave traces which last for a long time,” Sheikh Tamim said in a speech to the country’s consultative Shoura council.
“It is very regrettable that the continuation of the Gulf crisis exposed the failure of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)…which has weakened its ability to face challenges and threats and marginalised its role in the region,” he said.
The United States, an ally of the six-nation GCC, has tried to mediate in the dispute which it sees as a risk to efforts to contain Iran. Qatar is home to a U.S. air base. Saudi Arabia and the UAE had repeatedly said that resolving the row was not a top priority for them.
(Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Angus MacSwan)