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Qatari Opposition Conference: Return to the Gulf or International Isolation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Qatari political activist in exile Khalid al-Hail. (AP)

London – The Qatari opposition held a conference in the British capital on Thursday to discuss the future of the country in the wake of the ongoing political crisis and the continuous support to terrorist organizations by the Qatari regime.

International experts, politicians and journalists, who participated in the conference, said that combating terrorism and maintaining the stability of the Gulf was a priority for the international community, stressing that Qatar should define its loyalties, and choose between returning to the Gulf and joining international efforts to combat terrorism or aligning with Iran and facing international isolation.

In his opening remarks, Qatari opposition spokesman in London, Khaled Al-Hail, said that the authorities in Qatar paid bribes and launched a media campaign in an attempt to stop the first conference of the Qatari opposition, which he considered a “turning point in the future” of the Arab peninsula.

He added that Qatari authorities have deprived many citizens of their nationality, and arrested many others, noting: “Change sought by the people of Qatar will not be filled with roses”.

Al-Hail stressed that the conference aimed to uncover the reality of the political situation in Qatar, and provide space for freedom of expression, in the wake of the “policy of silencing the mouths exercised by the Qatari system”.

On the relationship between Qatar and Iran, the Qatari opposition official said: “Iran’s danger to Qatar is greater than Qatar’s fears from the GCC.”

The conference program included five main themes: Doha’s role in spreading political Islam and supporting terrorism; the relationship between Qatar and Iran as a major source of regional instability; Qatar’s aspirations for global influence against democracy and human rights; Free media or the trumpet of terrorism; and, finally, economics, geopolitics and international energy security.

In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Dov Zakheim, former Undersecretary of Defense in the George W. Bush Administration, said: “The United States is capable of moving its military base from Qatar to one of the neighboring Gulf states or to Jordan if Doha maintains its current policy.”

“If the Qataris believe that the Iranians will eventually save them, they are making a big mistake,” he added.

“Doha wants to maintain good relations with its neighbors and Western allies, but at the same time it supports Al-Nusra, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which threaten the stability of the region and the United States,” Zakheim also said.

Bill Richardson, the ex-US energy secretary and ambassador to the UN in 1997-1998, said that the boycott imposed by Gulf states on Qatar was a “constructive pressure”.

Alan Mendoza, the head of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, questioned if the ruling emir’s actions were leading Qatar to “a tipping point”.

“How is it possible that Qatar is supporting Al-Nusra and other extremists? Qatar uses its economic power to silence it critics but we live in a world, which isn’t so easily constrained by what governments want us to do. Brave Qataris are speaking up,” he stated.