Anwar Gargash, UAE secretary of state for foreign affairs, denied the hacking reports © Bloomberg
A senior UAE official has denied that his country orchestrated the hacking of Qatar’s state media, one of the triggers that precipitated the Gulf crisis that has pitted four Arab states against the gas-rich state.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s secretary of state for foreign affairs, on Monday dismissed a report in the Washington Post newspaper that cited US intelligence officials saying that the UAE had organised a hack that attributed false comments to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, emir of Qatar.
The report cited US officials claiming that American intelligence had information showing that senior UAE government members had discussed the plan a day before the comments appeared on Qatari news media and social media sites on May 24. The officials did not know whether the UAE carried out the hack themselves, or contracted the job to others.
“The Washington Post story is not true — you will see that the story will die,” said Mr Gargash during a question and answer session after addressing the Chatham House think-tank in London.
The emir’s alleged remarks, in which he praised Palestinian group Hamas, described Iran as an Islamic power and said relations with Israel were good, were repeatedly broadcast by Saudi Arabian and Emirati media outlets, even after Qatar denied their veracity.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which rejected Doha’s hacking explanation, also responded by blocking the transmission of Al Jazeera news network and other Qatar-owned sites as the alleged comments sparked a furore in the Gulf.
The spat was key to the ratcheting up of tensions between Qatar and its neighbours, which broke out into a full-fledged economic embargo on June 5 when the quartet cut air, sea and land links with the world’s largest exporter of liquefied petroleum gas.
Qatari officials have long said that the four blockading states had some involvement in the alleged hacking of its media channels, describing the breach as a pretext for escalation.
Speaking at Chatham House, Mr Gargash said the quartet’s “harsh” measures were intended as a “wake-up call” for Qatar to stop its support for extremism and terrorism. Doha has repeatedly denied the claims. He downplayed prospects for a quick resolution to a crisis that has turned US allies against one another, saying the four Arab nations was prepared for the “process to take a long time”.
Mr Gargash also accused Qatar of supporting groups linked to al-Qaeda in Syria and Libya, adding that Qatar-owned media was fanning a pro-jihadist narrative that was incompatible with continued partnership with the Gulf states.
Citing Qatar’s abrogation of earlier agreements made with the Gulf states in 2013-14, he said the quartet was looking for an international mechanism to oversee Qatar’s actions, monitoring funding, refuge and media support for terrorism.
Mr Gargash said the intention was not to force Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council, but that its behaviour would have to change.
“The GCC is in crisis,” he said. “Either we reach agreement where Qatar changes its behaviour or Qatar makes its own bed, moves on, and we have a new set of relationships.”