2013 GCC documents shed light on current Qatar dispute
London- As Qatar projects itself as a victim in the dispute in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Gulf officials, to clarify their position, leaked previously classified agreements to shed light on Doha’s alleged lack of commitment to GCC security and the reasons behind the biggest regional diplomatic spat in decades.
The official text of the 2013 Riyadh agreement, first reported by CNN International, was released July 10 by Saudi officials.
The accord, which has been the subject of much speculation, called on Doha to cease interference in other Gulf countries’ affairs and end support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups. A statement by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt said the declassified documents “confirm beyond any doubt Qatar’s failure to meet its commitments and its full violation of its pledges.”
Qatar questioned the timing of the leak, saying it was aimed at dampening mediation efforts by the United States and fellow GCC member Kuwait. However, Gulf officials, who spoke to The Arab Weekly on condition of anonymity, said the disclosure was intended to inform US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other Western officials who have stepped in to mediate the dispute.
The sources said the intended goal was to point out to well-meaning mediators that, despite Doha trying to position itself as a victim, Qatar reneged on pledges at the highest level.
The sources stressed Qatar’s failure to follow up on the GCC security agreements was only part of the many pieces of evidence — from financing terrorism and sponsoring militant groups — the four countries involved in the dispute have on Doha.
The first agreement signed in November 2013 was handwritten, a possible indication of last-minute negotiations and changes.
The 2013 accord, signed by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, was centred on the concept of not interfering in the internal affairs of other GCC countries. The agreement called for no support for antagonistic media but did not mention Al Jazeera directly. The written agreement was clear on not supporting movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
On March 5, 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain abruptly withdrew their ambassadors from Doha over what was described as Qatar’s failure to commit to a GCC security agreement signed in 2013. A statement by the trio said the pledge that GCC countries not back “anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals — via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media” was not honoured by Qatar.
That dispute resulted in the signing of an agreement on November 16, 2014, which was headlined “Top Secret” and came after months of mediation by Kuwait and other GCC allies. Unlike the 2013 document, this agreement mentioned Al Jazeera by name.
The updated agreement added more signatories, including Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. In addition to the points of the previous agreement, it called for all GCC members to support Egyptian stability and to no longer support media hostile to Egypt, “including all the offences broadcast on Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr and to work to stop all offences in Egyptian media.”
The current GCC crisis broke out June 5 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and transport ties with Doha over its alleged links to extremist groups and Iran. The four countries told Qatar to end its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood movement and downgrade ties with Iran, among other demands.
This was followed by the four countries giving Doha a list of 13 demands. A deadline to agree to those demands passed without any breakthroughs.