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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Qatar PM defends record in ‘Arab Spring’ countries during Kerry visit

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Amid growing discontent with Qatar’s role in certain revolutions across the Arab world, the country’s prime minister has rejected claims of partisanship in Syria, Egypt and Libya.

Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who serves as both Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, defended the country’s actions during a press conference tonight with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We are supporting the moderates [in Syria],” the prime minister said in response to questions about Qatar’s role there. 

“The longer the crisis, we will find [more] radical groups taking part, [but] we don’t wish for these radical parties to win,” he said.

Refuting claims across the Middle East that Qatar has been supporting hardline Islamist parties in the various Arab uprisings, including the Muslim Brotherhood, he said:

“It is believed that we are supporting a particular group in Egypt. However it is the right of the people themselves, whether it is Egyptians or Libyans, who or which group [is leading them]. 

From that time, it was falsely propagated that Qatar was supporting one group or another…”

The prime minister did not clarify what role Qatar is currently playing in providing arms to the Syrian opposition.

Kerry, who recently replaced Hillary Clinton as the United States’ most senior diplomat and has been touring Middle East countries, said only that “we are aware of what people are doing” in regards to arms.

But in an interview with Fox News earlier today, he confirmed that the US has been training opposition forces offsite. 

During tonight’s press conference, Kerry added:

“In terms of the fundamental balance of battlefield tactics and of effort, I think it’s pretty clear that the prime minister shares a belief in trying to do what we need to do rapidly and to try to affect this [crisis] most effectively, through the Syrian opposition coalition.”

Kerry also defended US President Barack Obama’s “clear” stance in support of the Syrian people by working to impose sanctions on Syria’s government, and working to identify and strengthen the opposition. 

However, Kerry made no indication that the United States would take any stronger action in Syria.

The other major line of questioning at the press conference had to do with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, which the Qatar prime minister referred to as “dead”.

“The stalemate, or the dead peace process, we hope can be revived seriously and genuinely by the key sponsor – the United States,” Al Thani said.

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