On July 13, 2018, the Qatari government daily Al-Sharq published what it claimed were exclusive statements made to the daily by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on the margins of the recent NATO summit in Brussels. According to the report, von der Leyen lavished praise on Qatar and on its "excellent military capabilities," saying that its helps NATO in its war against terror, especially in southwest Asia. According to Al-Sharq, she also expressed solidarity with Qatar in light of the boycott imposed on it by Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. She was quoted as saying that "Qatar has been subject to plots by some of its neighbors, aimed at harming its security and the security of its people," and that Germany and the other NATO leaders are aware of the details and goals of this plot. She called this an attempt to infringe on Qatar's sovereignty and interfere in its affairs, and promised that NATO would ensure such an act would never recur, claimed the paper.
The Al-Sharq headline: "Germany's Defense Minister to Al-Sharq: Qatar Is Part of Our Deterrence Power; Doha's Security Is Europe's Security" (image: Twitter.com/m_altayer, July 15, 2018)
Two days after the report was published, the German embassy in Saudi Arabia announced on its Twitter page that the German Defense Ministry denied the comments attributed to von der Leyen in Al-Sharq.
German Defense Ministry spokesman Frank Faehnrich likewise clarified that "the minister didn’t [make] these comments in any way," and added that, while the issue of Qatar had come up during a podium discussion on the sidelines of the recent NATO summit in Brussels, "we can deny that the minister was quoted correctly."
Following these denials, on July 16 Al-Sharq retracted its claims, stating that it wished to "apologize to the German Defense Minister and to Al-Sharq's readers for publishing the comments attributed to the minister." The daily explained that its correspondent had misquoted the minister; moreover, the correspondent had not informed von der Leyen that she represented a Qatari paper, and therefore the minister had been unaware that she was talking to the Qatari media. The daily added that its management had taken the necessary measures, without detailing what they were. It also removed the offending report from its website.