BAGHDAD, Iraq (Kurdistan24) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday disclosed Iraq was still in possession of hundreds of millions of dollars sent by Qatar in April to secure the release of members of the Qatari ruling family abducted during a hunting trip in 2015.
At the time, Abadi implied the funds were part of a deal to free the hostages without Baghdad’s approval.
The claim was denied by Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, claiming Baghdad was aware the money was sent “to support the authorities in the release of Qatari abductees.”
Media outlets had suggested some of the money had ended up in Iran as it was involved with Qatar in negotiating the release of the hostages alongside the simultaneous evacuation of people in four besieged towns, two Shia and two Sunni, in northern and southern Syria.
The move angered Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations which accused Qatar of paying Iran-backed Shia armed groups in Iraq to secure the release of the 26 kidnapped Qataris.
However, in an address broadcasted on Iraqi state TV on Sunday, Abadi said the money was in the central bank in Baghdad, pending a decision on what to do with it.
“We currently hold the funds which were deposited in the Iraqi central bank,” he said.
“Not one dollar or euro…was spent; they are still in their crates, supervised by a committee,” Abadi continued.
“Two representatives of the Qatari government came to check when they were deposited under the trusteeship of the central bank,” the Iraqi PM added.
The revelation comes days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries cut diplomatic ties with Doha for supporting “terrorism,” with the alleged ransom considered a “last straw.”
Qatar denied assertions made against it, labeling the decision from its neighboring countries to cut ties “unjustified” and with “no basis in fact.”
It also continues to deny accusations the money it sent to free the kidnapped Qataris in Iraq went directly to armed groups.
Meanwhile, the negotiation of the hostages’ release remains unclear.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany