Moscow: The Gulf states demanding that Qatar ends its support for extremism have warned they are considering further economic pressure on the country, such as reducing commercial links with countries that continue to trade with Doha.
The warning, the latest escalation in the three-week internal Gulf dispute, was made by Omar Gobash — the UAE ambassador to Moscow, and one of the most articulate figures in the dispute that has wracked the region.
Speaking to the Guardian, he also said the coalition would be willing to make themselves subject to the same western monitoring regime as Qatar to ensure key figures are not privately funding extremist groups.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain have cut economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar. They have tabled 13 demands, and said that Qatar must comply by next week or face further consequences. The demands include cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, closing the broadcaster Al Jazeera and reducing ties with Iran.
America and most European capitals have been trying to push the two sides into talks in a bid to de-escalate the row, fearing that if the dispute continues indefinitely Qatar will choose to have a closer relationship with Iran — the country that is currently doing most to undermine the impact of the boycott by sending food supplies to Doha.
Speaking in London, Gobash said expulsion of Qatar from the Gulf Cooperation Council — often raised as a possibility — was not the only option available.
He added: “Their position today anyway is inconsistent with being members of the GCC because it is a common security and defence organisation. There are certain economic decisions that we can take which are being considered right now.
“One possibility would be to set conditions on our own trading partners and say you want to work with us then you have got to make a commercial choice.
“If Qatar was not willing to accept the demands, it is a case of ‘Goodbye Qatar’ we do not need you in our tent anymore,” he said.
Qatari Foreign Minister Shaikh Mohammad Bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on Tuesday.
Gobash insisted that the UAE was trying with its allies to open a new chapter in the Middle East. “Yes we are making demands of Qatar, but it is very important to realise that we are imposing the same standards on ourselves. So if we are to ask for the monitoring of Qatari financial transactions and its funding of terrorism then we would be open to the same idea. This is not bullying. This is demanding a higher standard throughout the whole region.
“We have nothing to hide ourselves so we are willing to meet the same standards we are asking Qatar. The west has traditionally complained of a lack of financial transparency in the region, and there must be a huge amount that the west can do to monitor what is happening.”
He also warned: “We can escalate with more information, because we are not going to escalate militarily. That is not the way we are looking at things.”
He said he understood there was a risk that Qatar was being forced into a closer relationship with Iran. “We are asking Qatar to make a choice and we realise they may choose to take the route to Iran, and we are willing to accept the consequences of that.”