Steny Hoyer
Steny HoyerMichael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Qatari embassy in the US expressed surprise on Tuesday at comments made by Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) regarding the Gaza hostage crisis and his threat to "reevaluate" the US relationship with Qatar, Reuters reports.

Hoyer said on Monday that Qatar, which along with Egypt is mediating negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza, should tell Hamas there will be "repercussions" if the terrorist group "continues to block progress towards releasing the hostages and establishing a temporary ceasefire".

"Consequences ought to include cutting off funding to Hamas or refusing to grant Hamas' leaders refuge in Doha. If Qatar fails to apply this pressure, the United States must reevaluate its relationship with Qatar," Hoyer said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

In response, Qatar said Hoyer's comments were not "constructive".

"Qatar is only a mediator - we do not control Israel or Hamas. Israel and Hamas are entirely responsible for reaching an agreement," the embassy statement said.

"Of course, recent progress has been slow, and Congressman Hoyer is not alone in his frustration. But blaming and threatening is not constructive," it added, while also dismissing Hoyer's suggestion that Hamas should not be in Qatar.

"It is certainly tempting to do as he suggests and walk away from seemingly intransigent parties... but it is useful to remember that Qatar's mediation role exists only because we were asked by the US in 2012 to play this role since, regrettably, Israel and Hamas refuse to speak to each other directly," it said.

Qatar has played a key role in attempts to reach a deal between Israel and Hamas that would allow for the release of the hostages who are still held by Hamas in Gaza.

Qatar and the US have cooperated on other issues, and most recently the two countries reached an agreement that extends the US military presence at a sprawling base in Qatar for another 10 years.

Despite this, Qatar has come under fire for hosting senior Hamas leaders. Economy Minister Nir Barkat recently criticized Qatar, saying he didn’t trust Qatar to act as a mediator with Hamas and accused the Gulf country of “funding terror all over the world.”

Majed Al Ansari, the spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, later responded to Barkat, writing on social media, “Yet another headline seeking politician in Israel is using ‘Qatar-bashing’ as a means to further his own political future. Rather than being preoccupied with supporting in the efforts to secure a deal, Minister Barkat finds his time is better spent attacking the mediators who are working round the clock to reach a deal that ensures the release of hostages and stop the bloodshed.”