In August 2006 and March 2007, we published articles which referred to Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, Qatar’s Foreign Minister and now Prime Minister, and concerned his attendance at the Conference of Arab League Foreign Ministers in Beirut in August 2006.
In the first articles we referred to information provided to us by our sources to the effect that Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim had travelled to Beirut via Israel where he had stopped en route to hold discussions with the Israeli government. We reported that Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim had told the Israelis that his earlier public statements – to the effect that Qatar would sever relations with Israel if a unanimous Arab decision was taken to do so – had been made for the purpose of silencing Qatar’s critics. In a second article, we suggested that Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim’s subsequent denial that he had travelled to Beirut via Israel was untrue and reported a suggestion from a source that the denial was made for reasons of political expediency.
These articles were based upon information provided by sources of Asharq Al Awsat, speaking off the record, which at the time we believed to be true.
As we reported on 22 November 2007, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim has denied through his solicitors that he attended any such meeting with the Israeli government, a denial supported by a contemporaneous denial from an Israeli government source, of which we had previously been unaware, and a more recent denial by the Acting Prime Minister of Israel. We were happy to draw these denials to the attention of our readers.
Since then we have requested, and Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim’s solicitors have provided, Affidavit confirmation from the pilots on the relevant flight as to the route taken exhibiting the flight records relating to Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim’s journey to Beirut demonstrating clearly that he did not stop in Israel en route to Beirut.
In those circumstances, we accept that Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim did not hold secret discussions with the Israeli government en route to the Beirut Conference as previously reported and that his denial of his visit to Israel was genuine. We apologise for any embarrassment caused by our articles to Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim.