LONDON: The United Arab Emirates warned Qatar it could not belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council if it undermined regional security, calling for a “change of behaviour” but not “regime change”.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE state minister for foreign affairs, also denied a Washington Post report saying that his country had been behind an alleged cyber attack on Qatar in May which sparked a crisis.
Speaking at the Chatham House international affairs think tank in London, Gargash repeated claims – denied by Qatar – that the country funds extremists. “This is our message: You cannot be part of a regional organisation dedicated to strengthening mutual security and furthering mutual interest and at the same time undermine that security,” he said. “You cannot be both our friend and a friend of al-Qaeda.”
Qatar said it believed a media report citing US officials had revealed the responsibility of the United Arab Emirates in an alleged hack on its state news agency in late May which helped spark a diplomatic rift between Doha and its neighbors.
“The information published in the Washington Post … revealed the involvement of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and senior Emirati officials in the hacking of Qatar News Agency,” its government communication office said in a statement.
The report “unequivocally proves that this hacking crime took place”, it added.
The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said earlier on Monday that the Washington Post report was false and denied his country’s involvement in any hack.
Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed sanctions on Doha on June 5, including closing its only land border, denying Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from the emirate.
The four Arab states accuse Qatar of ties to Iran and of funding extremist groups. Qatar has denied the accusations. The Gulf crisis is the worst to hit the region since the establishment of the GCC in 1981.
“We’ve sent a message to Qatar. We’ve said we are not there to escalate. We are not after regime change. We are after a change of behaviour,” Gargash said. “We need to do that and when we do that, come back to the fold and we can work together,” he added.