Saudi Arabia, Egypt Condemn Mogadishu Terror Attack

Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Wednesday condemned the terrorist attack which targeted a restaurant in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, killing 19 and wounding at least 30 people.

An official source at the Saudi foreign ministry expressed Saudi Arabia’s strong condemnation.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the source offered the Kingdom’s condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Somalia, wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded. The official source also reaffirmed the Kingdom’s solidarity with the Somali Republic.

The Egyptian foreign ministry stressed in a statement today the Egyptian government and people’s stand with the government and people of brotherly Somalia in the face of abhorrent terrorism which aims at the security and stability of Somalia and the rebuilding of its institutions.

A suicide car bombing and assault by Shabaab militants on two neighboring restaurants in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu ended Thursday morning, a government spokesman said.

The attack Wednesday night began with a suicide car bombing at the gate of the restaurant. The blast largely destroyed the restaurant’s facade and sparked a fire at the restaurant.

“The suicide bomber drove a car loaded with explosives into the building,” said Ali Mohamed, a police official, identifying the target as the Posh Treats restaurant.

The Shabaab has been fighting for the last decade to overthrow successive internationally-backed governments in Mogadishu and has also launched attacks in Kenya and Uganda, both contributors to a 22,000-strong African Union force in the country.

France Mediates In Qatari Crisis

France

London, Ankara, Paris- While diplomatic efforts to contain the Qatari crisis with Gulf countries and Egypt continued on Wednesday, Paris announced that French President Emmanuel Macron would meet separately in Paris this month with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in an attempt to mediate in the ongoing crisis.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said it was optimistic about resolving the crisis, asserting that progress was made in this regard.

“I would characterize the mood and approach as hopeful, which believes that the worst is behind us,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held talks in both Qatar and Kuwait as part of his country’s attempts to mediate in the crisis.

Meanwhile, Standard & Poor’s said it worked on lowering the long-term rating on Qatar National Bank (QNB) to ‘A’ from ‘A+’ and put all its ratings on QNB, The Commercial Bank, Doha Bank and Qatar Islamic Bank on CreditWatch negative.

The agency said that currently, it sees numerous uncertainties regarding Qatar’s response to the group of government’s measures, the extent of these measures, and how long they will stay in place.

It said the four banks it rated in Qatar, collectively accounted for around 85% of the banking system’s assets at year-end 2016.

S&P added that the geographic breakdown of liabilities shows that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) represented around 8% (QAR75 billion or $20.6 billion) of the total.

“While we understand that this figure includes funds from countries (Kuwait and Oman) that haven’t placed Qatar under sanctions, we take the view that these funds may theoretically also be withdrawn because of the recent events,” S&P wrote in its report on “How Recent Developments In Qatar Affect The Banking System.”

Palestinian Chief of Intelligence: We Stand by Saudi Arabia, Refuse Iranian Projects

Palestine

Ramallah – Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj sounded accusations on Tuesday over Hamas being unwarrantedly involved in crisis in the region, in a thinly-veiled hint to the recent diplomatic crisis with Qatar.

“Palestinian Authorities have sided with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt and refuses any ‘Persian’ projects (in a remark made on Iran’s expansionist ambitions) for the region,” said Faraj at a charity meal held in Nablus in the West Bank.

“It is awfully embarrassing what we heard of slogans being cheered over in Gaza against Arab countries. We must cheer on for life… and for the Arab countries taking in our children abroad, we do not need for any Arab state to take a negative stance against our people or government,” Faraj criticized the Hamas responses and statements to the Qatar crisis.

He went on saying that the Hamas movement has control over Gaza, but is dragging Palestinians into places with no good consequence could prevail because of its involvement in Qatar.

“Our decision is independent and does not belong to foreign agendas. We refuse to interfere unilaterally or with bias into any Arab spat at hand. Intervention would cost us heavily for our cause and people who live all over the world.”

Faraj described Hamas’s decisions as “unsound” and called on the movement to resort to the umbrella of Palestinian legitimacy and end divisions polarizing the people of Palestine.

On the other hand, Egypt announced its preparedness to provide more electricity to Gaza — but only if Hamas cooperates with Egypt in its harsh ‘counterterrorism’ crackdown.

Egypt has reportedly demanded that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, more protection by Hamas at the border, the cessation of alleged weapons smuggling into the Sinai Peninsula, and information on the movement of “elements” into Gaza via underground tunnels.

Israeli authorities approved the electricity cuts Monday, upon the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the occupied West Bank, which foots Gaza’s monthly electricity bill from Israel by subtracting from taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authorities.

Saudi, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain Diplomats Meet with Tunisia’s Foreign Minister

Saudi ambassador Mohammed bin Mahmoud Al-Ali and ambassadors of each of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain in Tunisia met on Tuesday with Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, said the Saudi Press agency (SPA).

During the meeting, they discussed procedures and steps taken by the four states on severing diplomatic and consular relations with the Qatar in light of their commitment towards upholding national security, combating terrorism, drying up sources of funding terrorism and countering extremism.

The heads of diplomatic missions stressed their countries’ keenness on preserving the interests of the Qatari people, pointing out to the exerted efforts considering the humanitarian cases of the joint families between Qatar and their states.

Each of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar earlier this June. The coordinated move dramatically escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and adds accusations that Doha even backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran.

Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. Qatar was also expelled from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

King Salman to Receive Iraqi PM Wednesday in Jeddah

Saudi

Jeddah – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia’s Arab Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the meeting would see discussions over bilateral relations and regional developments.

Abadi’s official trip to Saudi Arabia comes following a visit conducted by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to Baghdad on February 25.

An official at the Iraqi foreign ministry said the two countries were holding “honest” discussions over regional matters and they were seeking to further boost bilateral relations.

In earlier remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Nizar Khairallah, the first deputy of the Iraqi foreign ministry, said that the two countries were facing common challenges, including the fight against terrorism.

He underlined in this regard the importance of bilateral cooperation between Baghdad and Riyadh to bolster intelligence efforts.

Khairallah noted the presence of shared interests in opening the land borders between the two countries, as well as resuming the direct flight routes between the two capitals.

King Salman Center Delivers Food Aid in Taiz

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief) has continued, for the sixteenth consecutive day the distribution of food aid in Taiz governorate, said the Saudi Press Agency on Monday.

This initiative was taken to alleviate the suffering of the people of Taiz in light of the siege imposed by Iran-allied Houthi militias.

More so, the first shipment of medical aid donated by the center to treat the cholera epidemic arrived in Aden as part of the support program provided by the Center to the Yemeni people in various areas of life, reported SPA.

A number of patients and doctors working in at the receiving hospital expressed their thanks to the center for its continuous support and initiative to tackle spreading Cholera in Yemen.

Commenting on the center’s rapid response for combating Cholera, hospital staff and patients stressed that efforts spent by Saudi Arabia are deeply appreciated and respected by Yemenis.

The aid is part of the medical convoy that the center dispatched to fight the cholera epidemic in Yemen. It contains 550 tons, carried by a convoy of 25 trucks.

Cholera in Yemen has killed at least 681 people and the outbreak has yet to peak, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures showed an increase in the death toll of nearly 50 per cent since its last update on May 27.

WHO figures were taken between April 27 and June 4 show 86,422 suspected cholera cases were recorded in 19 of Yemen’s 23 governorates, although the WHO said the increase was partly due to “better completeness of reporting”.

The Rolling Qatari Snowball

Qatar

Because Gulf warnings to the fellow neighbor were incessant for 21 years and the violation of pledges and agreements continued, confusion still prevails in Doha following the storm of cutting ties by neighboring countries and several others.

Qatar deemed this (sovereign) measure a hostile one, then it repeated the same old statements of diplomacy and dialogue, before turning to its friend Iran and also resorted to the forces of its ally Turkey. In another occasion, its ambassador in Washington said Qatar was ready to fix mistakes “should they be proven”.

In this way, Qatari diplomacy is wrapping the noose around its neck without taking any actual step that proves its positive approach towards the crisis that it caused because Doha is still adopting its former tactic of stalling without realizing that time is quickly running up.

Interestingly, Doha has not yet processed the real disaster it is experiencing. Following the reaction of the ties-cut decision and the designation of some Qatari citizens and institutions on the terrorism list, here comes another disaster, which is undermined by Doha. The real catastrophe is when the president of the most powerful country in the world openly accuses you of supporting terrorism, while your media and team deceive you by telling you that there is nothing to worry about. They are so disconnected from the reality as to describe the meeting between Trump and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani as “warm and friendly”!

The clear and painful truth is that Doha does not want to see is that Trump declared frankly: “The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a financer of terrorism at a very high level.” He added that it is time to call on Qatar to stop the funding.

Although Washington singled out Qatar in 2014 as a state that is lenient on terrorism funding, this time the message was delivered differently in its timing and type by a president whose main goal is to fight terrorism – unlike his predecessor Barack Obama. This is a crystal clear political message that the worse is yet to come for Qatar whether from regional countries, the US or even other countries that will join the attempt to end its connection with terrorism.

Washington’s stricter stance on Qatar indicates that the White House supports the decision of Arab-Gulf countries to isolate Qatar or as the American channel CBC said, the US administration has finalized its position on Qatar through siding with Saudi Arabia and other Arab and Islamic countries that are committed to fighting terrorism.

Yet until this moment, Qatar does not want to take an open strategic decision to stop the funding and support of terrorist groups because it has deemed the whole affair a political one. Is Qatar aware of the mounting crisis due to its insistence on avoiding the truth instead of regaining the initiative and quickly solving its problems?!

Six days after the ties-cut, Qatari reactions have all focused on reinforcing the concept of conspiracy against it. I don’t know what Qatar has for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and US to conspire against it. There is no single reason that would make these countries abandon their causes – and they are many – and focus on conspiring against Qatar!

The only proven conspiracy we have is the one in which its former emir and prime minister sought with Gadhafi to divide Saudi Arabia and fuel a revolt there. If Qatar is sincere in its wish to avoid strife, then it should change its behavior, build confidence and restore its credibility.

All it should do is revise its regional policies so that they become more moderate, like other countries. However, playing the victim and launching nationalist slogans will not stop the rolling snowball.

What Qatar will pay today to correct its attitude is much less than what it will pay later. The longer it takes to acknowledge and correct the problem, the greater the dues become in the 21 years of unpaid taxes.

Niger Recalls Ambassador from Qatar in Solidarity with Other Arab Countries

Niger said on Saturday it had recalled its ambassador to Qatar in solidarity with Arab countries that have cut ties with Doha over allegations it sponsors Islamist militants and Iran.

Some African countries have cautiously come out in support of attempts to isolate Qatar.

Mauritania, an Arab League member, cut ties on Tuesday and central African oil producer Gabon condemned Qatar for failing “on counter-terrorism.”

Senegal has said it would recall its ambassador in Qatar and expressed its “active solidarity”.

The Arab world’s biggest powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of support for extremist militants and Iran, and reopening a festering wound two weeks after US President Donald Trump’s demand for states to fight terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives joined later.

Closing all transport links with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt banned Qatari planes from landing and forbade them from crossing their air space.

Qatar, Misleading ‘Under Siege’ Rhetoric

Qatar

Victim to the detrimental foreign policy adopted by Doha, the Qatari citizen perhaps is the most forgotten amidst the diplomatic row engulfing the region.

For years, Qatar’s government invested in harboring and supporting extremist groups, and was well-occupied with harming its neighbors. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt chose to cut off ties with Doha, closing its only open-land border.

Comfortable in the leverage provided by a Gulf Cooperation Council membership and a US military airbase, Qatar systematically targeted regional countries. But rules to the game have changed, especially now that strategic and powerful regional players have come together for a boycott.

Borrowing from Saddam Hussein and Hamas rhetoric, Qatar authorities felt the painful sting of exploiting its citizens in order to explain sanctions that have befallen the country. Doha repeatedly fell back on saying that sanctions targeted Qataris.

Sensing the danger in its hostile policy for the first time, Qatar now understands the stakes. Relentlessly, Doha worked on dismantling Arab societies through promoting and supporting extremist ideology and funding armed factions.

With ‘support’ speaking for itself, internationally-wanted groups and terrorists have rushed to defend Qatar today—al-Qaeda’s Saudi cleric Abdullah al-Muhaysini, Kuwait’s ultra-hardline Salafist and Qaeda fundraiser Hamid bin Abdallah al-Ali and dozens alike have sided with Qatar over social media platforms.

A majority of extremist figures recently blacklisted by Arab and US countries are either currently based in Qatar, or one way or another are supported by its government. Four Arab countries had named in a statement 59 people, including Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, and 12 entities, among them Qatari-funded charities Qatar Charity and Eid Charity.

In a region ravaged by chaos and instability, Qatar has somehow managed to enjoy relative tranquility, save for an assassination and a bombing tacking place in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was killed when a bomb ripped through his SUV in the Qatari capital, Doha. Authorities then arrested Russian officials believed to be involved in the assassination, sentencing them to life in prison. But after Russian threats weighed in, Doha released the perpetrators with them having spent only a few days behind bars. They were later given a heartfelt red-carpet welcoming in Moscow.

In 2005, a suicide-bombing had targeted a British school in Doha which killed at least 13 people.

In the case of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Qatari policy was unbearably destructive. Qaeda offshoots that Saudi Arabia fought against for years on were given a voice in Doha, as its state-funded media blatantly allowed them a platform whereon they can call for attacks against the kingdom.

Riyadh, Cairo, Tunisia are among the capitals that suffered the spilling of innocent blood, to which they responded with protests on a diplomatic level only.

Faced by legal punitive measures, Qatar will capitulate. But it will most likely use cunning politics and ploys to weasel its way out of commitments, as it always does.

Sounding more like a joke, and less than a serious cry for help, Qatar labels the multi-lateral initiative taken to reverse its destabilizing regional policies as an “oppressive siege”.

Qatar, by no means, is under a ruthless blockade! Doha’s airspace and water corridors remain open, save for those intercepting the territory of countries joining the boycott. It remains to be said that Qatar enjoys massive resources and is able to import its needs from Europe and Australia’s most luxurious markets, and having them delivered to Doha by its giant air fleet.

With little land to go around, Qatar has an easily affordable low population, with most of its residents being in one place.

Trying to reproduce the underprivileged scenario found in Gaza in hopes of manufacturing sympathy across the Arab and world public opinion is not befitting to Qatar’s prosperous image and reputation.

Doha’s authorities are being boycotted and not besieged. All that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have done was preventing Qatar from using their land, air and sea corridors, which is an act of sovereignty and is backed by international law.

The ban is civilized compared to Doha’s employment of rogue policy to destabilize neighboring states.

A price must be paid for disrupting relations with neighboring states—Qatari carriers will pay that price by traveling longer hours after losing access to Saudi, Bahraini and UAE airspace.

Qatar Airways lost a monthly 1,200 flights–somewhere around a quarter of a million passengers– with Saudi Arabia alone, while Saudi Arabian airliners lost only a 120 flights per month.

This is the high price of authorities in Doha have to pay over the dispute– it may not care much for its financial losses as much as it is bothered by its top air carrier losing its international reputation.

Although that the boycott affects Doha financially, morally and politically, it is not a blockade so long its ships and aircrafts are able to travel and trade with the world.

The siege should cut all the corridors- a measure tested with Iraq before- and therefore have to search for convincing excuses, or think of reconciliation, before the pressure increases and more countries join the ban.

Qatar Hardens its Stance, Refuses to Respond to Gulf Demands

Qatar

London, Riyadh, Moscow – Qatar has chosen to harden its stance towards its Gulf neighbors, according to recent statements by its foreign minister, who stressed that his country was not ready to change its foreign policies to resolve the ongoing crisis.

Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani told a news conference in Doha on Thursday that Qatar was facing isolation due to its success and progress, adding that his country was an environment for peace and not for terrorism.

“We have been isolated because we are successful and progressive. We are a platform for peace not terrorism … This dispute is threatening the stability of the entire region,” he added.

While he noted that the current crisis would threaten security in the whole region, the foreign minister stressed that Doha would not make any compromises or relinquish its foreign policy.

“We are not ready to surrender, and will never be ready to surrender, the independence of our foreign policy,” Al Thani stated.

The Qatari official said his country has not yet received the list of demands of neighboring states that decided to cut ties with it on Monday, adding however that the government was keen on resolving the crisis peacefully.

“We don’t see a military solution as an option” to the crisis, the minister noted, adding that his country would respect Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) agreements with the UAE despite the measure adopted by Abu Dhabi to cut ties with Doha.

The foreign minister revealed that Iran has expressed readiness to provide food to Qatar and would dedicate three of its ports for this purpose, but noted that the Qatari government has not yet accepted the offer.

Meanwhile, UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash called on Qatar to “change its course” and “abandon its stubbornness”.

“The request for political protection from two non-Arab countries and military protection from one of them could be a new tragic and comic chapter,” he wrote on Twitter late on Thursday.

For his part, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged Arab and Gulf states to avoid escalation of the situation in the region.

UN Secretary General Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the UN chief was ready to support diplomatic efforts to resolve tensions between Qatar and other Gulf Arab states. He added that Guterres was following the situation with “deep concern”.

Meanwhile, Moscow announced on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not meet with the Qatari foreign minister during the latter’s upcoming visit to Russia.

Russian media agencies quoted sources as saying that the Qatari foreign minister would visit Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Saturday.

The news came in parallel with a decision by Mauritania, a GCC member state, to suspend diplomatic relations with Qatar. Chad and Senegal also said that the respective Qatari ambassadors have been summoned to discuss measures that would be taken by the two countries in support to Saudi Arabia.