The following is a transcript of an interview with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, that aired on Nov. 26, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. It is his first interview since Qatar helped broker this hostage deal between Hamas and Israel. Qatar has also facilitated getting Americans stuck in Gaza, out of the region. Good morning to you, sir.
PRIME MINISTER MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI: Thank you very much for having me, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sheikh, the White House told us that at least one American is expected to be released by Hamas today. You've seen the list of hostages. Will we see four-year-old Abigail Edan released today and are you confident this exchange will happen?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Well, so far things are moving in the right direction. We've been working very closely with the U.S. government, with the White House, of course, and we are hoping that we will see the release happening shortly. And within that list, they include Abigail, the young girl, four years old.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will we see more Americans released soon?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Well, we are hopeful, actually, there are still some names, which supposed to be on the first group. Until now, we didn't get the confirmation yet. But you know, we are working on daily basis and making sure that every day we have the rest of the next day. So we are hopeful that to have- to have a confirmation of, you know, a proof of life for them and hopefully, the result at the end of the agreement. As I mentioned, things are happening on a daily basis and we are focused on today's operation and hopefully that will happen very shortly from now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Mr. Prime Minister, I understand a Qatari delegation visited Israel yesterday and Gaza today. Do you expect that this four day truce will be extended? And if so for how long?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Well, actually, we are- we are hopeful. According to the agreement that been agreed upon in the last few days for this four days pause. The agreement has a provision that if Hamas are- will be able to prove, to locate, and secure some of the hostages that are within the criteria of the first group, which is women and children, then it will be extended depends on- on the number that they will have. This is something we cannot confirm yet until we get to the fourth day, then Hamas should present the list if they are available with them. Our delegation who have reached to Israel and to Gaza, they are totally two separate delegation. Gaza delegation is focused on ensuring that humanitarian aid are sufficient, that they are going to- the humanitarian aid that's going in Gaza and it's a pure humanitarian mission. Our delegation who are in Israel, they are [unintelligible] in Doha that monitor the operation of the releases and ensuring that everything and any concern that addressed as early as possible.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, during these pauses in military operations, has Hamas been able to gather more hostages? Do you have any indication that there will be more freed beyond these 50 women and children and civilians?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Well, until now, we have- we have no confirmation but you know, Margaret, it's a very complicated structure that we've been dealing with. So our dealing is only with the political office in Doha, and the representatives in that office, whom they are communicating with Hamas, in Gaza, and they are getting- bringing information from them. And normally what we have seen throughout these negotiations, the information only provided at the time of any agreement, or when it's happened, but they never indicate something earlier, and this is a pattern that they've been using as part of their methods for a very long time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You're saying the political leaders located in Doha sometimes have a delay in communicating with the military commanders in Gaza. Do you know where Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas commander believed to have planned these attacks is right now?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Well, I don't think that this information is available with anyone except you know, the people who are close to him. And this is information really that doesn't relate much to what we are doing right now and on the ongoing negotiations. Our communication throughout the years that we had with Hamas has been very exclusive to the political wing and the political representatives and the office here in Doha. And that's it. And we don't deal directly with or never have any dealing with the military wing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Qatar is home to the very large US military base. Qatar is a major non-NATO US ally. But in this country, a number of Republican lawmakers in particular, have publicly called for your country to hand over those Hamas political leaders. What is the future? Will they remain in Qatar?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Margaret, our relation with US is a very solid relationship and alliance that being established throughout the decades, we've been working together very closely in ensuring peace and stability in the region. And in several occasions, Qatar has been always stepping up to this partnership. And if you recall, Afghanistan, and currently right now, we've been working very closely with the White House, with the CIA and State Department to ensure that this deal is happening. The President of the United States is in constant contact with His Highness, the Emir, and I've been in constant communication with our colleagues in the White House, CIA and State Department as well. There is a relation that's based on trust, based on mutual interest of both countries. This office, when it's established, it's established in coordination with the US to establish the communication with Hamas. And it's been always useful, not only for the US, but for the US, Israel, and for the stability of the region. And as long as this is something useful, and also, you know, right now we are in the middle of the negotiation, we will always keep the communication open with everyone. We did that previously with Taliban, some of the politicians in the US, they didn't, probably they didn't like it, or they disagreed with us. But we've been dealing with this matter very professionally and trying to get the benefit of this communication. You cannot end the conflict by speaking to your friend. If there is a conflict, you need a friend to speak to your adversary or to your opponents, and I believe Qatar represent the perfect friend of the United States to speak to those adversaries and multiple parties.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you see an opportunity in this short truce, to have some kind of diplomatic agreement to end the conflict? And will Qatar play a role in the future of Gaza? You've had a relationship with Gaza under Hamas' rule. Will the future of Gaza involve your country?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Well, our relationship Margaret, is with the Palestinian people, with the Palestinian cause. Our support for the Palestinian people has been ongoing for decades. And this is what Qatar stood for. Whoever is governing the Palestinians, it's their choice. And I believe that our focus right now is how to end this war, how to ensure that this is not repeated. And the only way to ensure that this is not repeated is to resolve it peacefully, to have a political solution and provide the Palestinian people with a political horizon for- for a state. And then the day after and who will govern Gaza and the West Bank should be one unit, one country, under one leadership that will be chosen by the Palestinian people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And Qatar will play a role, I understand you saying. Before I let you go, you've talked-
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: For- for the- for the support of the Palestinian people, definitely we will continue that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. Before I let you go. As you mentioned, Qatar has undertaken a lot of diplomatic initiatives. One of them recently has been to help bring Ukrainian children who were taken to Russia back to their families in Ukraine. You brought four children home so far. Is there hope to bring home more Ukrainian children soon? And what is the goal here? Are you trying to broker a breakthrough with Russia?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Qatar has been mediating in different conflicts that not only exclusive to the region. But even beyond that. And this is something that's been in the foundation of the country foreign policy. And it's- it's a core element- element that we are focusing on. And this- we see that this is a contribution of such a small country to international peace and security. We carried out this role based on the request at the beginning, from the Ukrainian in our constant exchange and communication with them, how we are able to help and we use the channels of communication and the relationship that we have with Russia to secure those four kids. And this, these efforts are- has been ongoing and still continuing. And we are hoping also for another group to come back to their families before the holidays, hopefully.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Another group - how many children?
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Well, until now, the numbers are not clear yet, so I won't disclose it until we have, you know, this solidified and finalized.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Prime Minister, I appreciate your time in the middle of this intense diplomacy we will be watching and hoping for progress.
PRIME MINISTER AL THANI: Thank you very much, Margaret, for having me.
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