Doha, Asharq Al-Awsat- On the sideline of a dinner party that was held in honor of the Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem al Thani of Qatar met the editors-in-chief of the Saudi newspapers Al Riyadh and Asharq Al-Awsat.
The meeting with the editors-in-chief was not planned and took place after Sheikh Hamad told the editors, who were part of Crown Prince Sultan’s delegation, “Forgive me [for not having met with you already], I will meet with you tomorrow.”
When the Qatari Prime Minister realized that the editors would be leaving Doha the following morning, he requested that the meeting would be held immediately after the dinner party that is after his meeting with the Saudi Minister Dr. Masa’id al Eiban.
As they waited for Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem, the Saudi editors were given ashtrays. Some of them smoked as they waited, which seemed inconsistent with the usual protocol of waiting in the houses of prime ministers.
The editor-in-chief of Al Riyadh newspaper, Turki al Sudairi said, “This is politics. Who would have thought that we would all gather in Hamad Bin Jassem’s home?”
After the wait, the editors were summoned to the guestroom where the Qatari Prime Minister holds meetings. As soon as they entered, one official called Turki al Sudairi by his name and when al Sudairi stepped forward, Sheikh Hamad said to him jokingly, “I want you to sit next to me as you’re the one who has cursed me the most.”
Sheikh Hamad joked with the audience and apologized that the room was filled with cigarette smoke. He said, “May God help us quit smoking and save us from it.”
During the discussions, Sheikh Hamad said to journalists, “I have become accustomed to criticism and defamation. Sometimes I do not read what is written about me but others tell me what is being said and I am a frank person.”
At that point, one of the Saudi media figures asked Sheikh Hamad about the Al Jazeera satellite channel, the anti-Saudi content that has been broadcast and whether it is a cause of tension between the two countries. Sheikh Hamad answered, “Al Jazeera as well as others [contribute to tension]. Parts of your media and some of your channels are also flawed. Some of our channels and some of yours cause harm to us all. There have been some attacks and malicious things [have been said]. But why should we focus on the past? Let us look to the future and look at what can unite us.”
Despite the fact that the meeting did not last long, the questions were focused, jokes were being shared and there was laughter in the room. The questions that were posed tackled the issue of Qatari-Israeli ties and the Israeli trade office in Doha. Iran, the United States, Lebanese affairs, Syria, and the Saudi-Syria conflict were also discussed; in short, the meeting covered important issues of the region.
As he apologized for the disorganized nature of the meeting, the Qatari Prime Minister said, “I don’t like talking whilst everyone in front of me writes down what I am saying. I would like to invite you to visit Doha for a day on the condition that you all come for a visit and we hold an extended meeting so that we can discuss all issues in detail.”
As we left the meeting, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem asked Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, why he was dressed in a suit and tie unlike the other Saudi editors. Tariq Alhomayed answered, “So that you can see me.” The Qatari Prime Minister laughed aloud and said, “Good answer.”