Qatari FM on crisis: Doha demonizing campaign ‘groundless & improvised,’ started out of the blue

The Qatari foreign minister has met with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, with the severing of ties between Qatar and some of its neighbors topping the agenda. Both ministers agreed the crisis should remain an internal issue.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said he explained what he called "an underpinning" to the recent crisis in the Arab world and Doha's "views on the issue" to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in an exclusive interview with RT Arabic on Saturday.

The underlying reason for the events "must not be too deep," as relations between Doha and other Gulf states "were very friendly even two days prior to the escalation," the Qatari minister said.

There have been meetings, consultations and summits in late May, "with no questions related to the current controversy having been raised" there.

"An information campaign to demonize Qatar has started all of a sudden," al-Thani said, claiming that all accusations against Doha have so far been "groundless, improvised" and lacking specifics.

"If there are clear claims, they would have better been discussed at the table. Before taking any measures, Qatar should have been given a chance to answer to accusations," he said.

"Mr. Lavrov also stated his opinion, with it being that the conflict should stay within the scope of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council].

Moscow is against any escalation, and we in Qatar agree," al-Thani told RT Arabic after his meeting with Lavrov.

"All disputes should be solved through dialogue and within the GCC only," the Qatari minister said, adding, ”unfortunately, those states that had undertaken unfair and illegal measures against Qatar also engaged countries that are not GCC members."

Underlining that ”Qatar and Russia – which is the main player on the international arena – have friendly relations," al-Thani told RT Arabic and that Doha views it important "to discuss the crisis" with Moscow.

"The dialogue [with Lavrov] was constructive,” he said.

Moscow would do "everything possible" to help find consensus among the Arab world’s biggest powers that severed ties with Qatar, Lavrov said on Saturday.

The move by several Arab countries to break-off diplomatic relations with Qatar has triggered "a sharp aggravation of the situation in the Arab world," Lavrov said following the Saturday meeting.

"Russia will try to do everything possible, with consent and interest of the parties involved," he added, saying that Moscow "maintains contacts with the majority of participants in the ongoing processes."

"For reasons of principle, we don't interfere in the internal affairs of other states or in their bilateral relations with each other," Lavrov emphasized. "However, we cannot enjoy the situation where relations between our partners are deteriorating."

Lavrov highlighted the fact that the main current threat for both the Middle East and the world is terrorism.

It is crucial to ensure cooperation to fight it in the region, he said, adding, ”it is of fundamental importance to focus on cooperation, on combining our efforts to prevent and neutralize this threat."

READ MORE: Arab states’ blockade of Qatar hinders campaign against ISIS - Tillerson

Earlier this week, the office of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called on Gulf nations to work on overcoming their differences, saying the UN Secretary General is prepared to mediate in the deepening Arab crisis.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen earlier this week cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the country of backing terrorist groups. Qatar has called the move a "campaign of incitement based on lies."

The Saudi-led coalition has also announced that Qatar’s participation in its joint military operation in Yemen has been canceled. The coalition’s statement accused Doha of supporting Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorist groups.

At a recent news conference at the White House, US President Donald Trump also attacked Qatar, saying that Doha has "historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level."

"I decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals and military people, the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding ‒ they have to end that funding ‒ and its extremist ideology," Trump announced Friday.