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Qatar rejects US Congressman's criticism of its mediation efforts in Gaza

April 16, 2024 at 8:58 pm

US Representative Steny Hoyer speaks to press in Capitol Building in Washington DC, United States on October 24, 2023 [Celal Güneş – Anadolu Agency]

The Qatari embassy in the US expressed surprise on Tuesday at comments made by a US Democratic Congressman regarding the Gaza hostage crisis and his threat to “re-evaluate” the US relationship with Qatar, Reuters reports.

Congressman Steny Hoyer said on Monday that Qatar which, along with Egypt, is mediating negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza, should tell Hamas there will be “repercussions” if the Palestinian group “continues to block progress towards releasing the hostages and establishing a temporary ceasefire”.

“Consequences ought to include cutting off funding to Hamas or refusing to grant Hamas’s leaders refuge in Doha. If Qatar fails to apply this pressure, the United States must re-evaluate its relationship with Qatar,” Hoyer said in a statement.

In response, Qatar said Hoyer’s comments were not “constructive”.

“Qatar is only a mediator – we do not control Israel or Hamas. Israel and Hamas are entirely responsible for reaching an agreement,” the embassy statement said.

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“Of course, recent progress has been slow, and Congressman Hoyer is not alone in his frustration. But blaming and threatening is not constructive,” it said.

Qatar is a major non-NATO ally, the statement added, and presently hosts 10,000 US troops and the largest US military presence in the Middle East.

The embassy statement also dismissed Hoyer’s suggestion that Hamas should not be in Qatar.

“It is certainly tempting to do as he suggests and walk away from seemingly intransigent parties … but it is useful to remember that Qatar’s mediation role exists only because we were asked by the US in 2012 to play this role since, regrettably, Israel and Hamas refuse to speak to each other directly,” it said.

Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages during a 7 October incursion into southern Israel, according to Israeli tallies. An estimated 129 hostages remain in Gaza and negotiators have spoken of some 40 being freed in the first stage of a possible deal with Hamas.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The 7 October killing spree by Hamas triggered Israel’s ground and aerial offensive in Gaza which Palestinian officials say has, so far, resulted in the deaths of more than 33,000 Palestinians.

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