August 13, 2017

Kuwaiti mediation sees possible breakthrough in Qatar crisis

Increased efforts. The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (R) is received by UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum before talks about Qatar, last June. (WAM)

London- Kuwaiti mediators, who appear to be making pro­gress, increased diplo­matic efforts to get both sides of the Qatar boy­cott dispute to agree to face-to-face talks to resolve the row between Qatar and a group of Saudi-led Arab countries.
Gulf sources, speaking on con­dition of anonymity, said Kuwaiti mediation efforts could lead to Qatar agreeing to direct talks with­out the lifting of sanctions first, a precondition set by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
This new flexibility was the re­sult of shuttle diplomacy by Ku­wait First Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah and Minister of State for Cabinet Af­fairs and Acting Minister of Infor­mation Sheikh Mohammad Abdul­lah al-Mubarak, who visited all the countries involved in the dispute and Oman, another Gulf Coopera­tion Council (GCC) member, which has remained neutral.
The sources said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want explicit Qatari guaran­tees, not guarantees from Kuwait or the United States, which has ex­pressed readiness to help. Bahrain, however, has shown more flexibil­ity.
A Saudi official again called out Qatar for its alleged support for ex­tremist groups. Chargé d’Affaires at the Saudi Embassy in Kabul Mishari Alharbi, in an interview on Afghan television, criticised Doha for supporting the Taliban.
“Qatar supports the terrorist groups and it is still providing sup­port for terrorist groups. The Tali­ban Qatar office is where [terrorist groups] contact their supporters and vice versa. The Taliban has been receiving supplies using the address,” Alharbi said.
He said Qatar was the Taliban’s main lifeline and expressed con­cern for the deteriorating secu­rity situation in Afghanistan while pledging Saudi Arabia’s continued support.
The International Civil Avia­tion Organisation (ICAO) rejected Doha’s request to intervene in the dispute, saying the political dimen­sions of the crisis were outside its domain.
Qatar had asked the ICAO to in­tervene in June after its GCC neigh­bours closed their airspace to Qatari flights as part of a sanctions regime.
Bahraini Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Ka­mal bin Ahmed Mohammed said: “The decisions taken by the [ICAO] confirm the validity of the techni­cal measures adopted by the four concerned countries and affirm the neutrality of the organisation and its adherence to the role for which it was established — to maintain the safety of civil aviation around the world.”
The ICAO’s decision followed re­ports in the government-controlled Qatari media that the UN body convinced the UAE and Bahrain to open air routes to Qatari planes, re­ports denied by both countries.
The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said it allowed a Qatari aircraft to use airspace above in­ternational waters managed by the UAE, not UAE airspace.
Bahrain’s Ministry of Transpor­tation and Telecommunication said all media reports on Bahrain opening its airspace to Qatar Air­ways were inaccurate, adding that air routes over international waters had been open for all types of air traffic since June 11.
The crisis broke out after state­ments attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticising US foreign policy and praising Iran were carried by the official Qatar News Agency.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, saying that Qatar interfered in their countries’ internal affairs and supported radi­cal groups such as Hamas, the Tali­ban and the Muslim Brotherhood. A list of 13 demands issued by the quartet must be met for talks with Doha to commence, the boycotting countries said.