'Bringing back the dark ages of tribes': Saudi Arabia accused of bid to destabilize Qatar

  • Qatar's foreign minister tells CNBC that Qatar is ready to engage with neighbors
  • Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani denies any evidence of supporting terrorism
  • Cabinet colleague and economy minister Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Thani says Qatar finding other ways to conduct trade

Saudi Arabia has been accused of trying to engineer a change of power in the neighboring gulf state of Qatar.

Qatar has endured a four-month economic embargo imposed by a group of fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Saudi Arabia. The alliance has accused Qatar of allying with Iran in the support of terrorism.

Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told CNBC Tuesday that Saudi Arabia is currently trying to destabilize the leadership of Qatar.

"We see (Saudi) government officials talking about regime change. We see officials inciting the people to go and protest their government, so it is about regime change," he said.

"We see a country that is bringing back the dark ages of tribes and putting them together in order to create a pressure on connected tribes in Qatar," the minister added.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain have cut all ties, including transport links, with Qatar, accusing it of allying with Iran in support of terrorism. Doha denies the accusation.

Al Thani said the intention of the alliance of blockading countries was in fact not to curtail terrorism, but more to "disrespect and bully."

"It is nothing to do with stopping financing terrorism or hate speech while they are doing the same by promoting incitement against my country, promoting a regime change in my country," he said.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Al Thani said, both the United States and the Emir of Kuwait have helped to calm the rhetoric and steer the blockading countries away from any threat of military action.

The Saudi-led coalition took its action against Qatar after the emirate restored diplomatic relations with neighboring Iran.

Al Thani argued that Qatar does not share the values of Iran but needs to have an open dialogue with the country.

"Restoring diplomatic relations with Iran does not change our policy with them. We cannot increase the tension with them. We need to have dialogue," he added.

Qatar is a base to thousands of U.S. troops engaged in the battle against the so-called Islamic State.

Al Thani said the blockade on Qatar is harming that fight.

"Ninety percent of our supplies, our food supplies, our medical supplies, is coming through the land border and part of that is going to the base," the minister said.

He added that as air space is now blocked to Qatari aircraft that offer strategic support, those planes can only now use one path, north toward Iran.

Open for business

Minister of Economy and Commerce for Qatar Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani told CNBC that the blockade was not crippling Qatar.

He said Tuesday that Qatar had found ways to get around land blockades by importing and exporting more via sea and air.

"As I'm talking to you now, we are open to business to all around the world so the only affect come from the land border which has been blocked, but we went to the other alternative source to import all our needs," he said.

The economy minister said the rift with Gulf neighbors had forced Qatar to accelerate exiting plans for self-sufficiency and to diversify away from oil revenues.