More than two years ago, Qatar found itself under an economic blockade from the Gulf countries. Nevertheless, country is developing actively and playing a significant rile in the Middle East. Qatar Ambassador to Russia Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah in exclusive interview to News.ru has proclaimed his assessment of the current situation in the region an in Syria. Also, he told the news portal about the prospects of purchase by Emirate Russian S-400 systems and about preparations for FIFA-2022.
Situation with Iran
— Who is behind the Gulf of Oman attack on oil tankers, in your opinion? Who benefits from it?
— Who knows? Perhaps it`s the terrorist groups. We still do not have information on who committed the crime. Allegations are floating in the air, but these are just allegations, there is no evidence. The incident is very dangerous we need to monitor the situation closely since most of international energy resources are exported through the gulf.
— How do you assess the current Iranian strategy? It seems that at first, they tried to setback the US sanctions through the cooperation with the EU, and now they changed to the strong resistance while maintaining a certain tension within the country.
— As a neighbor of Iran, we are concerned about the current escalation and we think that it can lead to serious negative consequences in the region as well as in the whole world. It`s easy to start a war but it's hard to finish. The United States and NATO began their operations in 2001 and are still tied up in Afghanistan. Then they came to Iraq, which turned into a terrible situation with terrorism and then to Syria.
If another conflict starts, then, as your president said, this will lead to a catastrophe. I am convinced that the best way out of the situation would be constructively bringing Iran back into the negotiations and the return to JCPOA, which the US withdrew from. If there is any concern about its behavior, then it is necessary to create a platform for dialogue, rather than use measures that are not supported by the international community and certainly not endorsed by the United Nations.
Syrian settlement and Assad’s future
— If we talk about regional conflicts, then we cannot leave Syria behind. How does Doha see its role in the conflict settlement? Is it possible to say that the de-escalation zones introduction has minimized the monarchy's participation in the process?
— Our position on Syria has always remained unchanged. It is difficult to imagine stability in Syria without a viable political road map.
— What is Qatar's opinion on Turkey's position regarding Syria?
— Turkey has a large boarder with Syria, and for that, it has big fears in connection with the terrorist influx. Turkey, Iran, Iraq — all neighboring countries, of course, are concerned about their security when Syria becomes a hub for criminals. I think Turkey, Iran and Russia are among the ones who are trying to find a solution for this problem. De-escalation zones are good to have, but to make them stable, it is necessary to start the political process with concrete timeframe. Otherwise de-escalation will have a temporary effect.
An important aspect: Turkey, Russia and Iran should sit together and drew a concrete political plan with clear goals. I know that not everyone will be happy about it, not everyone will be satisfied, but that is the price that will have to be paid to end the conflict. There will be many compromises from all sides. In the end, the solution made should allow the Syrians to choose their leader, their government, but guarantees are needed that this process will be honest, open and that its results will be respected.
— Can Doha contribute to the political process?
— Of course. We offered help during the transition period to the Russian authorities, the Turks, the Iranians and the Syrians. We are ready to help the Syrian people and all the members of the international community involved in Syria.
— Will Qatar agree on Assad remaining the president after the transition?
— Are we voting or the Syrian people? Who is voting? The Syrians do. It`s not for us to choose who will leave or who will stay. Whoever takes the position must be chosen by the Syrian people. We need to create clear and transparent political framework that people would have confidence in. If this does not work, Syria will remain in a state of conflict for a very long time.
In my opinion, someone must take responsibility for what happened in the country: 700,000 people were killed, 14 million displaced. In my opinion responsibility rests with the leader, in other words on Bashar Assad. After all these destruction, murders and migration, I do not believe that Assad will be able to become the figure that all Syrians will agree upon. Is it possible to imagine that he will unite everyone for the sake of the future? I do not think so. If the Syrian people wish to elect him again, then, of course, it is their right. But we must give the Syrians the right to choose and create conditions under which other candidates can run for elections.
— Qatar supports Libya's Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj. Do you discuss the situation in Libya with Moscow? Are there any contradictions?
— We are holding talks with Russia not only on Libya but on the whole Middle East. Qatar supports the officially recognized government of Tripoli. If there is a disagreement or a conflict, it is necessary to return to the Skhirat Agreement signed under the UN supervision. This is the political agreement that united the parties and established the current government and parliament. Now we that general has created army and combat troops to fight the government. If Haftar wants the political post, then he should leave the army and become a participant of the political process.
In case of a conflict over the government structure and the distribution of power, it is best to address the UN Special Envoy and try to arrange the second Inter-Government Conference on the analogy of negotiations on Syria in Genève and in Astana format. Qatar is equi-distant from all parties of the conflict. For us Libya is a country with huge potential, it has the right for a chance. At the same time, we do not accept intervention from outside: Egypt, the UAE and other countries that try to support one side in the struggle against the another. The official position of Qatar is that we support legitimate authorities. Russia, I am sure, has always adhered to the support of legitimate authorities.
Negotiations on Afganistan
— Doha regularly hosts talks between the United States and the Taliban (the organization is prohibited in Russia). Do you see Americans trying to achieve real political stability in Afghanistan?
— I think the United States is involved in a long war. Now they have come to realize, that this war cannot be won if the majority of the Afghani population are excluded from the dialogue. I think the negotiations in Doha are directed on finding the right way to move to the next phase and to prevent turning Afghanistan into another hub for terrorists and source of a treat for another countries. Qatar is making efforts to promote dialogue between the leading world forces and the Afghan authorities and groups such as the Taliban to bring stability to this part of the world. Doha efforts has already helped parties to find a common ground. Let me remind you that there are talks held behind all the world's conflicts. Qatar does it publicly. Our efforts are recognized by the UN, and being done in close dialogue with our friends here in Russia.
— What do you think about Moscow's format on Afghanistan conflict resolution? Some experts believe that Russia is trying to play on contradictions using this format.
— I do not think that Moscow plays on the contradictions. The process is in coordination with Qatar and other countries. We welcome these efforts, especially when they come from Russia and other permanent members of the UN Security Council.
«Deal of the century»
— Bahrain recently hosted a conference where the US introduced the economic part of the «deal of the century». Are the given numbers acceptable in your opinion?
— For the last 70 years, Palestinians are under occupation and the best thing that can be done for them is the return of their freedom, dignity and land. After that, they will determine how to become economically viable by themselves. In my understanding, the decision to offer an economic package without defining a specific political framework is doomed to failure, especially if the Palestinian authorities do not support this effort.
-What should the Palestinian-Israeli settlement look like?
— It must comply with international law. There are many United Nations resolutions and Oslo-based agreements that impose a two-state solution: East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine, West — the capital of Israel. Otherwise, everything will end with a stateless decision like in South Africa.
Purchase of S-400
— Is the US putting pressure on Qatar in terms of S-400 purchase or the negotiations with Russia are still underway?
— There was no direct influence from Washington on Doha. The problem is that the United States imposed sanctions on Russian companies. If you do business with the United States, you must understand the consequences of sanctions for your country's business and national interests. These sanctions were imposed not to hurt Qatar, but to undermine Russia's ability to export such military equipment. They affect not only Qatar but the whole world. Many countries would like to purchase S-400, but do not want to take the risk. We see the current situation between Turkey and the United States Of course, such circumstances make the purchase of such systems for us more difficult, but it does not mean that we will stop our cooperation with Russia in the military-technical sector.
— What would Qatar's steps be if Saudi Arabia signs a contract with Russia for S-400 purchase?
— Our defensive policy is based on the threats to our country. The S-400 is a defensive system, not offensive. When Saudi Arabia purchases offensive systems, then we will make a appropriate decision.
The World Cup in Qatar
— Currently, the media is actively discussing that Qatar may lose the right to host FIFA-2022. What does Qatar do to prevent this? Will Doha cooperate with Russia in championship preparation?
-That is a closed chapter. Qatar is at the final stage of meeting all the championship's requirements. I think that Saudi Arabia and the UAE support the skeptics and those who are trying to challenge our right to host the World Championship. They finance and support all those who write negatively about Qatar and the World Cup because they want to harm Qatar in all the possible ways. We will defend our right to host the Championship. It benefits not only Qatar but the entire region.
Russia has organized one of the best championships in the football history. Everything was almost flawless, people were very happy. Russia has invaluable experience of organization both the Championship and the Winter Olympics. We talk with our Russian colleagues from different spheres about sharing their experience with us. By the way, a Russian company is involved in the construction of one of the Qatar's stadiums. We also discuss cybersecurity and interoperability issues during the Championship. There is a dialogue in several spheres.
— Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's interaction with Muslim countries is often described as «the second track of Russian diplomacy,» while the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is positive about it. Does the head of Chechnya cooperate with Qatar? If so, how useful are these contacts?
— We welcome any route of the dialogue regardless who took the initiative of bringing Russia closer with the Arab world, the Middle East or Muslim countries. As long as the Russian government is satisfied with the result, we will positively assess it. In Doha, we do not take a negative stance against anyone who wants to bring Russia and Qatar closer. No matter is it Ramzan Kadyrov or someone else.
Exit from OPEC
— Doha left OPEC on January 1, 2019. Can Qatar return to the organization and under what conditions? Is Doha satisfied with the current oil prices?
— We have already stated that leaving OPEC relates to the fact that the organization does not act in the interests of all its participants. This is the main reason. Secondly, Qatar is a major gas exporter. Our oil sales are insignificant. As to oil prices, I think that today they reflect the market demand. In the short run, prices will remain the same. An agreement between Russia and OPEC will keep prices at the current level. In the long run it is necessary to look at the development of the car industry, in particular, the number of cars with the internal combustion engine and electric cars. This can affect oil consumption, which will affect the prices.