Bahraini-Qatari relations deteriorate as crisis continues

Sunday 05/11/2017
Rejecting Doha. File picture of GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif al-Zayani during the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. (AP)

London- Bahrain has called for the freezing of Qatar’s membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as the six-month dispute over Doha’s role in fund­ing and supporting what other countries have designated as terrorist organisations does not seem likely to be resolved soon.
“The right step to maintain the GCC is to freeze Qatar’s mem­bership in the council until it controls its mind and responds to the demands of our countries but we are fine with it exiting the council,” Bahraini Foreign Minis­ter Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa wrote on his official Twitter ac­count.
The GCC is composed of Bah­rain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.
Khalifa also tweeted that Bah­rain would not participate in the annual GCC summit in December if Qatar attends, a sentiment ech­oed by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa a day later.
“Time has come to take firmer action against those who seek protection from foreign allies to threaten the security and safety of their brothers,” King Hamad said.
“So long as Qatar continues on this path, Bahrain will not at­tend any Gulf summit or meeting in the presence of Qatar unless it rectifies its policy and accepts the demands,” the king added in reference to the demands issued by the countries involved in the dispute with Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bah­rain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar on June 5 over what they described as Doha’s interference in their countries’ internal affairs and its support for radical groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, designated as a terrorist organisa­tion in all four countries.
The Manama government im­posed visa restrictions on Qatari nationals travelling to Bahrain, in effect revoking a GCC member­ship perk that allows nationals from the six member countries to travel freely between those coun­tries.
King Hamad said Bahrain has been “one of the most affected by (Qatar’s) policies” and that the new measures were security mo­tivated.
The quartet of boycotting coun­tries issued a list of 13 demands that Doha needed to comply with for sanctions to be lifted. The de­mands include Doha severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, downgrading its relations with Iran and closing the Al Jazeera media network and what were deemed other hostile media out­lets funded directly or indirectly by Qatar.
Al Jazeera recently blamed GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif al- Zayani for not resolving the crisis.
“Although officials in the Qatari government and the Qatari me­dia are fully aware that the solu­tion of the crisis and the end of its repercussions are in the hands of GCC leaders who are the mem­bers of the supreme council and no one else,” Zayani responded in a statement, adding that it was not the responsibility or duties of the secretary-general.
Zayani said he was specifically upset by media reports in Qatar linking his alleged inaction on the dispute to his Bahraini national­ity.
He called on Qatar’s media to abandon this “harmful” ap­proach, which he said hindered mediation efforts by Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al- Sabah, who has warned that the crisis could lead to a collapse of the GCC.
Not all high-ranking Gulf of­ficials share the emir’s sense of urgency. At the recent annual Chatham House conference, Sau­di Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the crisis with Qatar as “a small issue” and said there were other important matters on which to focus.