Qatar’s foreign policy is realistic, says PM


The comments came while he was replying to questions from a group of students at a programme on the Qatar TV yesterday. The monthly show titled Lakom Al Karar (Decision is Yours) has been produced by the Qatar Foundation. Since becoming the Prime Minister this was the first public programme where Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem talked in detail about several controversial issues concerning the region.

Asked if there is a contradiction in the Qatari stand of supporting Arab causes and maintaining the American military base in the country, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem said: “We should remember how the American base came to Qatar. It was the result of the Kuwaiti invasion. Earlier there was no base in Qatar but it was in some other neighbouring countries. There are still American bases in many countries, where there is no any need of it, just because of some conventions signed before 40 or 50 years ago.”

He added that inside the American base, the Qatari military is controlling the affairs and the presence of the US forces do not pose any threat to the government.

Asked about America’s new Middle East policy, the Prime Minister said that it was part of the political games after 9/11. Things have changed in the US after 9/11 and there is a growing feeling that people in the Middle East are hating America because it has been supporting the dictatorial regimes in the region. So the government now feels that it should promote freedom and democracy in the region.

“But in Qatar, we have started the democratic process long before the US started advocating it in the region. We have told the Americans that we have already initiated the process and we have our own ways to do it,” Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem said, citing the examples of the CMC elections and lifting of the press censorship etc.

“Earlier we had a department to censor all the newspapers and publications coming to the country. Now we don’t have that system. I am not talking about the moral issues. No publication was banned in Qatar because it criticised the Emir or any of the government officials. And no publication in Qatar was forced to function outside the country because it didn’t feel free to operate here,” the Prime Minister said.

On the view that the Middle East is still not prepared for democracy, the Prime Minister said: “People in the Middle East are ready for democracy than any other people. But the nature of the people here is to reject anything that comes from outside. So democracy should be introduced here in a phased and gradual manner. Many Asian and European countries which underwent radical changes in rapid manner are now suffering from serious problems.”

Asked whether the Qatari policy is just for show, the Prime Minister said: “Our policy is realistic. We believe is doing what we are saying and saying what we are doing. Our relation with Israel is an example of this. I want the Arab leaders to be straightforward. If there are five issues and they have agreed on three, they should openly say that they have not agreed on two issues. There are conflicts in the developed countries as well but they are able to co-operate despite the disagreements.”

Asked if he felt that Saudi Arabia has been playing a leadership role, the Prime Minister said: “Saudi Arabia is a big country and is also an important country. There should not be any misunderstanding about this. We are seeking good relations with Saudi Arabia, through we have differences with them on some issues.”

On the Iranian issue, he said: “We will not participate in any military attack against Iran. We support Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But we don’t want a nuclear competition in the region.”

At a voting conducted at the end of the TV show, 89 per cent of the participating students said “yes” to a question “Are you satisfied with the Qatari policy?”.

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