Boycotting countries pledge continued anti-Qatar stance
Cairo- At the end of the July 5 foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo, the standoff between Qatar and a Saudi-led group of four Arab countries seemed geared towards a long-term political and economic showdown with no end in sight.
But the inability of the four Arab countries boycotting Qatar to convince other Arab governments to join their efforts, division among them about their next moves and interference by US President Donald Trump hindered the declaration of additional sanctions against Doha following its rejection of boycotting countries’ demands, analysts said.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, whose foreign ministers met in the Egyptian capital, expressed disappointment that Doha had rejected their demands.
“We feel sorry for the disregard Qatar’s negative response had shown,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said following the meeting. “This response showed Qatar’s lack of realisation of the enormity of the situation,” he added, reading a statement he drafted jointly with his three counterparts.
It was expected the foreign ministers would declare new sanctions against Qatar for, as they claimed, sponsoring terrorism, meddling in their affairs, courting Iran and acting against the collective security of Arab countries.
That that did not happen, observers said, was an indication of divergent views among them on the course of action they should follow.
“I think this is the main reason why the meeting of the four ministers took longer than it was scheduled to,” said analyst Abdel Monem Halawa.
Russia proposed to help bridge the gaps between the parties and international oil and gas players expressed concern over the dispute’s effects on the global market.
The list of demands by the four countries included Doha stopping support for terrorism, shutting down news channel Al Jazeera, evicting Turkish troops deployed in Qatar, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and deporting Muslim Brotherhood figures.
Doha had been given ten days to respond to the demands and then two extra days at the request of Kuwaiti mediator Sheikh Sabah al- Ahmad al-Sabah. However, Qatar rejected the demands.
As the foreign ministers met in Cairo, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani described their demands as an “aggression” and the boycott as an attempt to “hijack” decision-making in Qatar.
“If we are not going to have a proper dialogue that gets us to a sustainable solution that respects our sovereignty, we will be setting a precedent for other countries,” Sheikh Mohammed said during a talk at London think-tank Chatham House. “I think the international community should not allow this to happen.”
The foreign ministers of the boycotting countries called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities in the fight against terrorism. They said the international community should act to end terrorism funding.
“There should be no room for entities involved in backing or financing extremism and terrorism,” they said in a statement.
Before the meeting, US President Donald Trump called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and said “all parties should negotiate constructively to resolve the dispute.”
Trump, who was aboard Air Force One en route to Poland to attend a G20 meeting, stressed the need for countries to follow through on commitments, made in May at the Riyadh summit, to stop terrorist financing and discredit extremist ideology, the White House said.
While the crisis over Qatar entered a second month, the list of countries boycotting Doha has not grown. Governments in North Africa are silent, Kuwait and Oman are on the fence and Jordan has not clarified a position. This, experts said, makes it hard for the four countries to take additional measures against Qatar.
“More steps will need more Arab unanimity, which is not present,” said political analyst Amar Ali Hassan. “The four countries need support from other Arabs if they, for example, will move to freeze Qatar’s membership in the Arab League or in the Gulf Cooperation Council.”
The four countries said they would maintain their stance against Qatar. They expressed hopes that Doha would eventually agree to their demands.
A day before the Cairo meeting, intelligence chiefs of the four boycotting countries were in Cairo to discuss the Qatari crisis. Analysts expected intelligence agencies to play a role in presenting evidence of Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism.
“This is an intelligence file in the first place,” said international relations expert Hassan Wagih. “The position of the four countries on Qatar is based on intelligence information on Doha’s links to terrorism.”