The Gulf state was the first to establish an embassy for the Syrian opposition.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani reiterated his country’s unwavering stance against normalising with the Syrian Bashar Al Assad regime in his first press interview in years.
Published on Wednesday, the major interview with French outlet Le Point was Amir Tamim’s first press appearance since becoming leader in 2013.
Responding to a question over normalising with the Syrian regime, Sheikh Tamim renewed Qatar’s refusal in doing so while mentioning the massacres committed by Assad.
“Why do we accept that a leader massacres his people and expels millions of refugees from his country? As human beings, is this acceptable? What’s more, when we know that these refugees are going to come to us and that this will create problems?” he said.
Qatar was among the countries that openly called on Assad to step down at the onset of the Arab Spring in Syria, and was the first Arab country to close its embassy in Damascus.
The Gulf state was also the first to establish an embassy for the Syrian opposition.
“For my part, I am ready to participate in talks if there is a peace process on the future of Syria and the demands of its people. But this is not the case at the moment,” said the Qatari leader.
At the height of the revolution, the Arab League suspended the Assad regime’s membership in the bloc after its failure to halt its violent attacks on peaceful demonstrators.
“As I told you, each country is free to establish relations with another. Nevertheless, when the Arab League took the decision to exclude Syria, it was for a reason and that reason is still there, it has not changed,” said Sheikh Tamim.
More than a decade since the war, several Arab nations have warmed towards the Syrian regime, including the UAE, Jordan and Algeria.
Recent months witnessed efforts by Algeria to reinstate the Syrian regime’s membership in the Arab League ahead of the summit in November, which is scheduled to take place in Algiers. The high-profile summit will bring together leaders from across the Arab world.
“Instead of waiting for the fire to reach [our] house, we must be serious and stop the problem where it starts, in Syria. And the same goes for Libya. If we are not careful, we will pay the consequences,” said Sheikh Tamim.
Qatar has long called for a peaceful political resolution to end the ongoing suffering of Syrians while receiving global praise for its stance.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said that at least 1,271 civilians, including 229 children, and 104 victims of torture were killed in Syria in 2021 alone.
The UN Human Rights Office estimates more than 306,000 civilians have been killed over the span of 11 years in Syria, with independent rights group estimating the number to be much higher. According to the UN, there are 5,724,230 Syrian refugees as of 31 March.
To date, the Assad regime has not been held accountable for its crimes despite evidence and investigations into the torture and killings of civilians.
“Normalising with a regime that has a record of crimes against humanity, and has broken every international norm, will not bring any benefits to those seeking to achieve any form or peace or justice,” Dr. Belal Tourkya is the Chargé d’Affairs of the Syrian Embassy in Qatar, wrote for Doha News last month.