- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Qatar, currently isolated by a host of other Persian Gulf states, will pursue legal action as a way out of the diplomatic stalemate, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said in Washington on Thursday.
He was responding to a question from Foreign Policy about just how Qatar will respond to Saudi assertions this week that Qatar will remain isolated unless it gives in to a list of tough demands presented by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
“Qatar is not isolated,” Al-Thani said. “Qatar is part of the international community. What they are imposing is a blockade. It’s not an isolation.” Pointing to what Doha maintains is an “illegal blockade,” al-Thani said he wants the “law implemented” against the countries blacklisting Qatar since early June.
Al-Thani did not specify what sort of legal action in particular Qatar will pursue. The Qatari Embassy in Washington, D.C. clarified that they are still discussing with lawyers which avenue they should pursue. Hours before, Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission said it would hire a Swiss law firm to seek compensation for those impacted by the severing of diplomatic ties, saying Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain would be responsible for providing the compensation.
Arab states that cut diplomatic ties with Qatar maintain that it is not a blockade because only Qatari airlines are prevented from using their airspace or territorial waters. But Qataris counter that they can only access air and sea travel through Iran — with whom, in a twist, the other Arab states demand Qatar downgrade relations.
A U.S. State Department official did not comment on the foreign minister’s statement, offering that they are not going to get ahead of current diplomatic discussions.
More than three weeks after the crisis began, both sides appeared deadlocked, and the United States has been unable to break up the logjam. The Gulf states’ list of demands for Qatar are hard for Doha to meet — the list includes closing Al Jazeera, opening Qatar up to audit, and ditching close ties with Iran.
The Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, say the demands are non-negotiable. Qatar says it wants to talk, not give in out of the gate.
“We believe Qatar has lots of allies and lots of friends, which keep it away from isolation,” al-Thani said. Doha will try to finesse its way out, rather than give in to what it calls an ultimatum that “sets a precedent in the region, and maybe in the world.”
Update, June 29, 2017, 4:57 pm ET: This post was updated to include comment from the Embassy of Qatar in Washington, D.C. and State Department comment.
FP’s Robbie Gramer contributed to this post.
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