Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor hosted his fourth session of Open Talk on August 9 where many of his social media followers got the opportunity to hear from the Al Habtoor Group Chairman in an open forum at the Al Habtoor Group head office. The diplomatic impasse over Qatar dominated the session as Joanna Andrews reports.
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor invited a panel of experts to join him in the fourth Open Talk session. The debate kicked off with the escalating political situation over Qatar following a move by the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt to cut ties with the gulf nation in June over allegation that Doha sponsors terrorism.
Khalaf Al Habtoor said, “We cannot compromise with terrorism. It is a plague, we will not allow anyone to support terrorism even if it is our closest kin… If you are supporting terrorism or threatening our stability in the UAE or any Gulf country you should be punished. You are either our friend or our foe. We have to be very clear that we are against any terrorism, and anyone that is funding terrorism.”
The panel of experts included Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, Professor of Political Science; Dr Abdullah Al Mutawa, Director of Al Arabiya News - Dubai; Ahmad Al Jarallah, a Kuwaiti journalist and Editorin- chief of the Arab Times and Al-Seyassah newspapers; Dr Fahd Al Shelaimi, Chairman of the Gulf Forum for Peace and Security; Faisal Jalal Abbas, Editor-in-chief of Arab News newspaper; and Khaled Abou Bakr, an Egyptian lawyer. The session was moderated by Yusef Al Muammari from Abu Dhabi’s Al Dafra TV and Noura Badawi, Chief Communications Officer, Al Habtoor Group.
Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdullah said that Qatar is a country that is going against its own interests. “It is adopting provocative policies through Al Jazeera and other media platforms. They are spreading incitement against Egypt and other countries.”
Al Habtoor reinforced his confidence in the UAE economy saying that the situation in Qatar will not have any impact on the Emirates. “During the war between Iran and Iraq, and the invasion of Kuwait, the UAE economy was always stable and prosperous. We thank God that our economy is moving forward. The occupancy in our hotels is always high with guests from Asia, Europe and across the world. We are not harmed by the Qatari boycott, we are just sad to see the embargo affecting Qatari people.”
Al Habtoor highlighted that the UAE leaders have taken a wise and patient stance in relation to the Muslim Brotherhood. “The UAE is a unique society, a society built on tribes. We are unified with our leaders. Let us set aside diplomacy and political talk, the law must apply, otherwise this crisis will never be resolved. My interest is the safety of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the whole world against terrorism.”
Khaled Abou Bakr said, “Egypt is the country that suffered the most from Qatar. We have shed our own blood because of them. Mothers have lost their sons and this has all been supported by Qatari funds… Is this the Arab spirit, an Arab killing another Arab? A Muslim killing another Muslim?”
Tarek al Zarouni, author of the book ‘Alone in Al Jazeera’ and former Al Jazeera reporter, who joined the session via teleconference commented, “Al Jazeera is Qatar’s Trojan horse, the main supporter of terrorism, shaming Islam by making Yusuf al-Qaradawi the Mufti of the country. Until now, al-Qaradawi has a weekly presence on the news channel and he has the foreign ministry’s support. He is a symbol of terrorism. We need a strong media apparatus to broadcast true facts, a soft power to fight against Al Jazeera English. One hand of the beast has been cut but the other is still in motion.” Open Talk 4 was attended by more than 100 of Al Habtoor’s social media followers and was watched live online by more than 5,000.