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Qatar slams alleged plot to wage 'financial war' against the country

  • Qatar's finance minister on Wednesday denounced an alleged scheme to destabilize his country's economy
  • Al-Emadi told CNBC on Wednesday that the alleged push to destabilize Qatar's economy is "against international laws"
  • U.S.-based news publication The Intercept said last week that it had seen a document that supposedly reveals a plan for the United Arab Emirates to "wage financial war"

Qatar's finance minister on Wednesday denounced an alleged scheme to destabilize his country's economy, saying the Qatari government is investigating what one news report called a "financial war" against the Gulf state.

The comments from Ali Shareef Al-Emadi came after U.S.-based news publication The Intercept said last week that it had seen a document that supposedly reveals a plan for the United Arab Emirates to "wage financial war" against Qatar through "an attack on Qatar's currency using bond and derivatives manipulation."

Al-Emadi told CNBC on Wednesday that the alleged push to destabilize Qatar's economy is "against international laws and against the International Monetary Fund establishment."

The Intercept cited a plan allegedly found in the task folder of an email account belonging to the UAE Ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, and which was subsequently obtained by the news publication.

CNBC has not independently verified the report, and a representative for the United Arab Emirates was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

The Intercept contacted the organization that allegedly drafted the document but its report does not state whether it contacted any authorities from the country itself.

Economic blockade

The news report makes its appearance as Qatar is suffering an economic blockade by some of its neighbors. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and cut off transport links with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting Islamist groups and destabilizing the region, allegations Qatar denies.

Addressing the report, Al-Emadi said the Qatari government is investigating the allegations and that it will publish its findings.

"But the good thing is, they will not succeed. Qatar is an open economy, and what they're doing is misleading the international investors," he said.

He conceded that he doesn't know if the allegations are true.

"We put an official statement out immediately, and we're doing our investigations here, we're going to look at the numbers and the details if we can get any, and we're going to come out publicly" with the results of the investigation, he said.

"We'll take legal measure," he said, "to make sure that those people are accountable for whatever action they've taken against our economy."

Saudi Arabia and its allies say they are boycotting the country rather than blockading it, but Qatar says its neighbors' actions are unjustified. The sanctions have weakened its economy slightly, according to official government data.

Relations deteriorated further in late summer after Qatar restored diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran, ties that had been cut in 2016 after attacks on Saudi Arabia's embassy in Iran.

Accusations around 2022 World Cup

Al-Emadi acknowledged that the blockade has caused "pain" for Qatari society, but said the standoff is hurting both sides: "This is a losing game for all of us. I don't think this is helping the region."

However, he denied it had seriously hurt the economy and said it could even be a "turning point" for the country.

"Whatever problems that those blockade countries were trying to make for Qatar were unsuccessful, and Qatar is still one of the … fastest growing economies in the region, and the good news is that most of that growth is coming from the private sector and not the hydro-carbon sector that this region is used to."

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, said this week that efforts to undermine Qatar's economy were designed to disrupt the World Cup, which Qatar is slated to host in 2022. The finance minister agreed, arguing that there was no good reason for the blockade.

"Tell me what is the dispute between Qatar and the other blockade countries?" he asked. "What is the dispute between Qatar and the other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries? We're not fighting over borders, we're not fighting on customs, trade or immigration."