As Gulf dispute continues, Qatar’s expulsion from GCC could be next

Sunday 09/07/2017
Odd man out? A view shows the meeting of foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states in Riyadh, last March 30. (Reuters)

London- Dissatisfied with Qatar’s response to their de­mands, Saudi Arabia and its allies may ratch­et up the pressure with further sanctions, with the possi­bility of Doha being expelled from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) appearing more likely.

After a meeting July 5 in Cairo of the foreign ministers of Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in Cairo, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said his country’s position and the sanctions on Qatar would remain unchanged until Doha “amends its policies for the better.”

Jubeir said the decision to im­pose sanctions on Qatar was “pain­ful” but also imperative because of Doha’s “support for terrorism and extremism, interference in the af­fairs of countries in the region, incitement and spreading hatred.”

The four countries imposing sanctions were not alone in their efforts, he said, with the interna­tional community supporting put­ting pressure on Qatar to cut terror­ism links.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said talks regarding the suspension of Qatar from GCC would take place during its next meeting in Manama, the date of which has not been set.

“Our decisions will not be hasty. Decisions like these are very im­portant… They have to be clear and well-studied,” Sheikh Khalid said.

Analysts said they expected Qa­tar to continue to involve inter­national mediators to resolve the dispute. Abdel Moneim Said, chair­man of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspa­per, said Doha would look for more mediation from international ac­tors, with the hope of generating support for its view that the sanc­tions constitute a blockade and not a boycott.

Said said the four countries in­volved in the dispute with Qatar were not likely to waiver in their 13 demands and were aware of Doha’s apparent lack of seriousness about them. He added that Turkey, which has been supporting Qatar, might be affected by the dispute.

“The government of Qatar has worked to thwart all diplomatic endeavours and efforts to resolve the issue, showing its obstinacy and refusal to reach a settlement, which again reflects its intention to continue its policy that is aimed at destabilising and undermining the security of the region, contra­ry to the aspirations and interest of the brotherly people of Qatar,” the countries involved in the crisis with Qatar said in a statement.

The statement did not specify what further steps would be taken against Qatar but the Saudi-funded Al Arabiya news channel reported that additional sanctions might include demanding international firms operating in the Gulf no long­er deal with Qatar or face having their licences to do business re­voked.

Al Arabiya reported that the sus­pension of the use of the Qatari currency in Gulf markets was a possibility, as was demanding in­ternational banks stop dealing with “suspicious Qatari funds.”

Saudi Arabia and its allies could refer Qatar to the UN Security Council and demand that Qatari nationals involved in the financing of terrorism be handed over to the International Criminal Court, the Al Arabiya report stated.

That group includes Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a former al-Qae­da operative based in Qatar; Abd Al-Rahman al-Nuaimi, a Qatari national accused of financing the Islamic State (ISIS); and Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s for­mer interior minister accused of harbouring Khalid Sheikh Moham­med, the purported mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

At the end of June, several major British banks stopped carrying the Qatari riyal. Lloyds Banking Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays said they were no longer buying and selling the Qatari cur­rency because a “third-party sup­plier” was no longer offering it.

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. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, saying that Qatar contin­ued to interfere in their countries’ internal affairs and supported radi­cal groups such as Hamas, the Tali­ban and the Muslim Brotherhood.