*Gabriel says Doha showed restraint in responding to blockade, urges neighbours to respond in similar spirit
*Blockading countries used "funding of terrorism" as a ruse to impose blockade: Sheikh Mohamed
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has said that Qatar's sovereignty must be respected, praising the country's "restraint" in responding to a blockade imposed by Arab states amid the worst regional diplomatic crisis in years.
He made the comments in Doha during a joint news conference with his Qatari counterpart, HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who insisted that Qatar is looking to solve the dispute through dialogue, but without compromising on its independence.
"There are boundaries that you should not cross, that the sovereignty of each country and the respect of this national sovereignty has to be there," Gabriel told reporters during the last stop of a tour of the Gulf region, in the latest diplomatic effort to end the standoff.
"It has to be a basic condition and when that is there, even the most difficult questions can be talked about," he added.
Gabriel visited Saudi Arabia on Monday, before holding meetings in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting "terrorism" - an allegation Doha denies. The four countries have also imposed a land, air and sea embargo.
After more than two weeks, the four countries gave Doha 10 days, or until Sunday night, to comply with a 13-point demand list in exchange for the end of the anti-Qatar measures.
Qatar on Monday delivered its response to Kuwait, which acts as a mediator, and the Saudi-led group of countries is now expected to meet in the Egyptian capital of Cairo Wednesday to discuss their next move.
Gabriel told reporters in Doha that whilst Germany was not going to take any sides in this dispute, it was commending Qatar's attitude towards the crisis, citing Doha's repeated calls for dialogue in order to bring about a resolution.
"Qatar has shown restraint in reacting to the blockade," Gabriel said. "We hope others will respond in a similar spirit."
The Qatari foreign minister said his country is committed to "fighting terrorism".
"Qatar takes the issue of combating terrorism as a top priority. It is an issue of national security not only to the state of Qatar but to the entire region. However, the unjust siege imposed by the other states under the pretext of combating terrorism is totally false and fabricated," he told reporters.
Sheikh Mohamed pointed out that Qatar's efforts in this regard far exceeded those of the blockading countries.
He said the topic of funding terrorism was used a ruse to severing relations and imposing a blockade on Qatar as such a pretext (of fighting terrorism) gave them a context to appeal to the international community. "It was meant to garner international sympathy. Yet, the efforts of Qatar in fighting terrorism are well known."
Asked about the statements of the UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was reported as saying to Qatar "Enough of supporting terrorism", Sheikh Mohamed said: "We tell him enough of lies, slander and defamation of Qatar, enough of defaming the Islamic civilization and its fame in the West, enough of hosting the Iraqi war criminals, enough of sponsoring outlawed militias. If we start with the word enough, the list would be too long and we do not want to go into this."
Sheikh Mohamed said the fight against terrorism can be waged not only by weapons but through providing young people with jobs and empowering them economically. "Terrorism is using violence against civilians to change the reality. It is not the difference of opinion and naming political opponents as terrorists," he stressed.
He also pointed out Qatar's contribution in providing 300,000 jobs in North Africa and funding the education of seven million children in 42 world countries. "Most of the children in refugee camps get their education through organisations supported by Qatar, as the aim is to replace despair and disappointment with hope and a better life."
Regarding the Qatari response to the demands of the blockading countries, he said the official response was prepared in accordance with international laws and conventions and the principle of state sovereignty. "It was handed to the Kuwaiti mediators and it is up to them to disclose its contents."
He said the demands put to Doha by Saudi Arabia and its allies were impossible to meet.
"The list is unrealistic and is not actionable," the Qatari foreign minister said. "It's not about terrorism; it's talking about shutting down the freedom of speech."
The Minister praised the efforts of Kuwait and stressed Qatar's willingness to discuss all issues based on respect to state sovereignty and international laws. Asked about his expectation of the response to Qatar's reply from Saudi Arabia and its allies, he said. "Nothing but just and constructive dialogue would solve the dispute. Qatar has always shown its good intentions and expressed its willingness to talk."
Gabriel stressed that Germany has good relations with all the parties involved in the crisis . Germany is also keen to maintain stability and security within the GCC countries.
"Many Germans come to Qatar as tourists. Many Germans work and live here as is the case with other GCC countries," he said, pointing out that Germany has economic interests in the GCC region and works closely with its GCC partners.
Explaining what happened at his joint press conference with the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Jeddah the day before and the technical issues with the translation, Gabriel pointed out that the Saudi minister was trying to explain the false impression that Germany was siding with any one party, stressing that Germany was not siding with any party but making efforts to understand the real cause of the crisis to help in resolving the dispute in collaboration with USA and other friends.
On the issue of terrorism funding, he said that some individuals and individual organisations and not governments, in some GCC countries are funding terrorism and there are international organisations that monitor the flow of funds to such organisations.
Earlier on Tuesday, Gabriel held talks with Abu Dhabi's crown prince in the UAE, where he said that the Gulf crisis is an opportunity for the region to strengthen the fight against the funding of "terrorism", before adding that the matter was not about "questioning Qatar's integrity or sovereignty".
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