UAE minister says ties with Qatar will remain strong

Minister of State Anwar Qarqash says Sheikh Qaradawi’s remarks will not affect ties with Qatar

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Relations between the UAE and Qatar will not be affected by a recent spat over remarks made by fugitive Egyptian Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradwi from Doha against Abu Dhabi, a UAE minister said on Wednesday.

“Qatar is part of our family and there will not be any negative development in our relations because of one person,” Anwar Qarqash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview aired on Wednesday.

Abu Dhabi summoned Doha’s envoy on Sunday to protest against “insults” to the UAE made by Egypt-born cleric Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar.

“We had to take a position because anything that touches the dignity of the UAE of course we do not tolerate it. But it is in our interest to have continued cooperation and brotherly relationship with Qatar,” the UAE minister said.

By supporting Egypt’ interim government and cracking down on Muslim Brotherhood cells, Minister Qarqash said: “The UAE does not follow an agenda that will exhaust it but there are some junctures that it sees as very important toward moderation in the region.”

“We want to play a role for the stability and moderation of the region,” he added.

He noted that the UAE does not have “inflated [political] aspirations” in the region but that it follows “realism” in responding to regional issues.

The spat with Qatar was the first of its kind between two members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- since the bloc’s formation in 1981.

Sheikh Qaradawi staunchly backs Egypt’s deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, unlike the UAE which supports the interim government installed in Cairo by the military that overthrew Mursi last July 3.

In a weekly Friday prayers sermon in Doha last month, Qaradawi lashed out at the UAE, accusing it of “standing against Islamist regimes, punishing its leaders and putting them in jail.”

His comments came just days after the UAE jailed a group of 30 Emiratis and Egyptians to terms ranging from three months to five years for forming a Muslim Brotherhood cell.

The Brotherhood is banned in much of the region, and the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia pledged billions of dollars in aid to Egypt after the overthrow of Mursi, who hails from the Islamist organization.

Qatar, however, has backed the Brotherhood in several countries swept by the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, and has criticized Cairo for banning the group and launching a deadly crackdown against it.

On Saturday, Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al- Attiyah disavowed Qaradawi’s remarks, saying “they do not reflect Qatari foreign policy” and insisting that ties between the two nations are “strategic in all aspects.”