Gulf crisis continues as Doha refuses to address issues of contention
London- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain continued their isolation of Qatar, with prospects for a swift resolution appearing out of reach in one of the biggest diplomatic crises to hit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in years.
Doha’s attitude towards the crisis has shifted between a victim’s mentality to brazen, unapologetic rhetoric and the publication of false stories in the media, including a report in the Doha-based Al Sharq newspaper that claimed Qatari nationals were stopped by Saudi authorities from entering Mecca.
The allegation was quickly dismissed by Saudi officials. Mecca Governor Prince Khalid al-Faisal said the kingdom never prevented any Muslim from entering the Grand Mosque, adding that Saudi Arabia would provide all services and facilities needed for those visiting the mosque.
A statement from The Saudi General Presidency for the Affairs of the Great Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque said: “Our dear Qatari pilgrims reside in the hearts of their Saudi brothers from the moment they enter the kingdom until they leave,” and added that 1,633 Qatari umrah pilgrims were admitted to the country from June 4-11.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al- Jubeir, reacting to comments by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdurrahman al- Thani, dismissed the notion of a blockade against Qatar.
“There is no blockade of Qatar. Qatar is free to go. The ports are open. The airports are open,” Jubeir said June 13 in Washington after meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “What we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace and this is our sovereign right,” Jubeir said.
He said that if Qatar needed food and medical supplies, the kingdom would provide its needs through the King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian Aid.
UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, said: “It is a striking and dangerous contradiction: Qatar invests billions of dollars in the US and Europe and then recycles the profits to support Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and groups linked to al-Qaeda.”
Otaiba also said Doha “must take decisive action to deal once and for all with its extremist problem — to shut down this funding, stop interfering in its neighbours’ internal affairs and end its media incitement and radicalisation.”
Early in the conflict, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE ordered all Qatari nationals to leave their countries within 14 days and for their citizens based in Qatar to return home in that same period. The initial announcement did not take into consideration cases involving mixed marriages. However, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain announced measures that consider humanitarian circumstances of citizens married to Qatari nationals.
Another minor adjustment was made with regards to airspace restrictions. Officials said flights by foreign operators to Qatar can use the airspace of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain under certain conditions, provided they submit a request 24 hours in advance and give aviation authorities the names and nationalities of passengers and crew, as well as a detailed list of cargo on board.
The permanent missions for Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain at the United Nations issued a joint statement saying the decision to cut ties with Qatar was a “sovereign right of the states concerned and aim to protect their national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism,” adding that the decision came after exhausting all possible means.
The statement also mentioned Qatar’s failure to comply with the Riyadh Agreement for the Return of Ambassadors and its Supplementary Agreement of 2014, by its “continued support, funding and hosting of terrorist, extremist and sectarian organisations.”
The crisis erupted after statements attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticising US foreign policy and praising Iran were carried by the official Qatari News Agency and reported by Qatari media less than a week after the Arab Islamic American summit. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, saying that it continued to interfere in their countries’ internal affairs and supports radical groups such as Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood.