Doha – Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani announced that the deal to secure the release of Qatari hunters kidnapped in southern Iraq went ahead with the “full knowledge” of Baghdad.
The Qatari FM was responding to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s complaint that ransom money was brought into Iraq without its approval. He added that Qatar had regularly consulted with officials in Baghdad during the tense negotiations.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the money was transferred legally and on board of a Qatari plane. “If they didn’t need the money, let them return it through official channels,” declared the Qatari FM.
It was the first official statement made by Doha since the release last week of the 24 Qataris and two Saudis held hostage since December 2015.
The Minister said that the hunters entered Iraq with official visas issued by the government in Baghdad.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Abadi told a news conference that Qatari negotiators had come to Baghdad prior to the release with what he said was hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom money.
“The Qatari government sent its envoy to Iraq,” Abadi said.
“We were surprised that there were big bags, so we seized them and they contained hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
Abadi insisted that the money was brought in without the approval of the Iraqi government, explaining that there is a process to be followed.
Abadi’s media bureau announced on Friday that he received a phone call from his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Abdallah Al Thani, thanking him for the efforts of the Iraqi government for releasing the kidnapped.