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Qatar's foreign policy 'is not up for negotiation'

Qatar's politics are a "nuisance" to parties that would like to "maintain the status quo", the country's Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said yesterday.

He added that due to its foreign policy, "Qatar has been exposed to criticism and attacks for refusing to follow a predetermined scenario or for playing a specific type of role on both the regional and international levels".

Al-Attiyah clarified that his country's insistence on following a particular type of foreign policy is a subject "that is not up for negotiation".

The statements were made as part of a speech that was given at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University in New Jersey.

"It may seem that, at first glance, Qatar is a difficult case to understand within the greater context of the region but that is due to the media's constant attacks. This would not be possible if writers were not hired to be lobbyists and to use their pens against us," he said.

Al-Attiyah emphasised that his country "pursues a different perspective in dealing with regional issues and conflict resolution".

"Qatar can only follow a foreign policy that is independent of outside influence and this is something that we are proud of," he said.

He also pointed out that the state of Qatar has no interest in following the policy of political blocs that is so prevalent in the Middle East, stating that many of these countries fall into this trap either directly or indirectly.

The minister emphasised that Qatari foreign policy is not something that is influenced or determined by the media or any other entity or individual. "Qatar foreign policy is based on independent and well-established principles. As a result of this, Qatar may be considered as a nuisance to those who wish to maintain the regional status quo because we do not automatically fall within the same ideological range nor do we automatically respond to out-dated considerations".

"Often times, heavy criticism is the price that must be paid for taking a firm position on your beliefs and taking ownership of them; however, unfortunately for those who oppose us, the independence of Qatar's foreign policy is simply non-negotiable," he explained.

Al-Attiyah added: "Qatar has taken a different position on things in the wake of the Arab Spring by choosing to stand with the people and the governments that emerged from these revolutions."

"Qatar has chosen to support and keep peace with the emergence of democratic processes that were appearing in the Arab world, which focused primarily on improving the quality of people's lives, socially, economically and politically. We know that other parties looked at the situation differently and we respect that."

"We simply believe that there is great value in having differing opinions and, while we greatly regret the heavy criticisms that have been waged towards us, we feel that we are entitled to have our own opinions and perspectives and to make our own decisions," the foreign minister added.

Relations between the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on the one hand and Qatar on the other became very strained in March when the three Gulf states accused Doha of failing to comply with a GCC agreement that was signed in November last year. The disagreements lasted until the State of Kuwait was able to act as a mediator and a new agreement was reached on April 17.

The Riyadh Agreement was signed on November 23, 2013, and it states: "No one country within the GCC shall interfere with the internal interests of another country in the union, whether directly or indirectly."

Many believed the dispute that occurred between the GCC countries stemmed from the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi who had very good ties and relations with Doha. Morsi was heavily criticised by the remainder of the Gulf countries.

Al-Attiyah criticised the UN position on the Palestinian issue saying that "Palestine is the last issue on the UN agenda. They have shown no interest in truly ending Israel's settler-colonialism".

"It is time for Israel to realise that the security of its people will only be achieved through peace and ending the occupation," he added.

Speaking about Doha's efforts to mediate conflicts the foreign minister said: "Qatar will spare no effort to find peaceful solutions and to avoid bloodshed and to that end we will continue listening to all parties and always give both sides a chance to have their voices heard and respected."

"We may be a bit extreme in our thirst for dialogue but we are not ashamed of this. It is part of our open door policy for peace," he added.

He went on to explain that Qatar's foreign policy takes a humane approach to conflict resolution because it aims to save lives at the individual level.

"Qatar's foreign policy has led to political work that is silent but effective and it is due to this that we have been able to negotiate the release of several hostages such as a group of nuns in Syria, 45 UN peacekeeping troops and the American national, Peter Theo Curtis," he added.

The minister said he understands that many may view Qatar's role as complex, however, this does not mean that it should be heavily criticised or called into question.

With regards to the issue of terrorism, he said: "The Syrian people are currently caught between the anvil of tyranny from the Syrian regime and the hammer of terrorism from the country's extremist groups. Peace can only be achieved by giving the people of Iraq and Syria stable alternatives that protect their rights, dignity and freedom."

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