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Middle East is ‘brimming with extremism’ but Qatar doesn’t support terrorism: Foreign minister

Key Points
  • "The Middle East was once a region of peace and co-existence but sadly it has transformed into a region of turbulence and extremism where terrorism flourishes," said Al-Thani
  • Al-Thani's comments come amid an ongoing economic and transport blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE that started in June

Qatar's deputy prime minister and foreign minister has defended his country's record on extremism.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani said Thursday that Qatar is assisting in global counter-terrorist operations, just as Gulf countries added to a "terrorism list" more entities they say are supported by Doha.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani attends a news conference in Rome, Italy, July 1, 2017.
Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters

"I come from a region brimming with extremism," Al-Thani said. "The Middle East was once a region of peace and co-existence but sadly it has transformed into a region of turbulence and extremism where terrorism flourishes."

Speaking at a counterterrorism conference hosted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a U.K.-based defense and security think-tank, Al-Thani said the fight against extremism was "not over."

"For many years, Qatar has stood with allied regions to say enough is enough," he said, adding that "Qatar is committed to destroying terrorism."

Blockade extended

Al-Thani's comments come amid an ongoing economic and transport blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that started in June.

The Gulf allies also cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist groups and destabilizing the region, allegations that Qatar denies.

The blockade was extended Thursday when Saudi Arabia's press agency said that the four countries had added two organizations and 11 individuals to a "terrorism list" of entities that it says are supported by Qatar.

"Through their monitoring, the four countries emphasize continued Qatari authorities' support for and sponsor and finance of terrorism, promotion of extremism and dissemination of hate speech, and that these authorities have not taken effective action to stop terrorist activity," the Saudi press agency reported.

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On Thursday in London, Al-Thani said his country had taken "aggressive steps" to cut off funding for terrorists, but added that it was a "work in progress which needs review and improvement."

Although he did not mention the blockade of Qatar by its Gulf neighbors, Al-Thani said the regional "totalitarian" and "aggressive leadership" and the "absence of justice" had resulted in suffering and drawn people towards extremist groups.

He said the key to combatting terrorism was through a "holistic approach," and he advocated education and employment programs to transform the region.