Mediation efforts faltering in Gulf dispute

Sunday 29/10/2017
Mission unaccomplished. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson steps off the plane at Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar, on October 24. (AFP)

London- Regional and internation­al efforts to resolve the Qatar crisis are appar­ently faltering, judging from assessments from Kuwait and the United States on the likelihood of ending the dis­pute.
Speaking during a national as­sembly meeting on October 24, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ah­mad al-Jaber al-Sabah warned that “more complications” could arise from the dispute if it continues on its current trajectory.
“The crisis could see more com­plications that will have a negative effect regionally and internation­ally and can harm Gulf nations and their people,” Sheikh Sabah said, adding that this represented an open invitation for regional and international interventions and conflicts.
Sheikh Sabah, who has been trying to mediate a resolution to the dispute for several months, said the crisis could bring about an end to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six-country political and economic alliance formed in 1981. The GCC’s annual meeting, scheduled for December, apparently will be postponed until next year.
“The collapse of the GCC means the disintegration of the last strongholds of Arab cooperation,” he said.
A side effect of the dispute has been the media war involving all sides.
In a statement quoted on Al Ja­zeera TV, the Qatari Foreign Minis­try urged its nationals and media outlets to refrain from “offending figures” of Gulf countries. “Qatar stresses its adherence to dialogue, stemming from its deeply rooted principles and values,” the state­ment said.
US Secretary of State Rex Till­erson, during a tour of the Middle East, said Saudi Arabia conveyed to him it was not ready for direct talks with Qatar.
“There is not a strong indica­tion that the parties are ready to talk yet,” Tillerson said af­ter meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh, before travel­ling to Doha for a meeting with the Qatari leadership.
The resolution of the crisis and US ties to the countries involved are important to America’s secu­rity and economic interests in the region, Tillerson said. “The United States intends to maintain those very strong, positive, important re­lationships,” he said during a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
“As we have indicated in the past, we’re hopeful that the countries can engage in dialogue and find a solution to the differ­ences that exist between them and restore the GCC unity, which we think is a very important and powerful organisation in terms of how it conducts itself and how it provides stability to the region,” he said.
Jubeir, speaking at London’s Chatham House think-tank, said the matter was in Qatar’s hands.
“We reject terrorism and ex­tremism and harbouring the wanted,” the Saudi foreign min­ister said. “We refuse to publish discourses of incitement and ha­tred and interfere in the affairs of other countries. We do not ac­cept that suicide bombings are justified in the media by extremist religious figures hosted by Qatar.”
He also pointed out some of the benefits of the dispute, including, he said, that Doha had committed to curbing its financing of radical groups.
Jubeir said that the Qatar sanc­tions had resulted in the sign­ing of a memorandum of un­derstanding with the United States to combat the financing of terrorism and that Qatari au­thorities had allowed US Treas­ury officials in Qatari banks and made amendments to the coun­try’s regulations on combating ter­rorism.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, 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 Iran’s agenda and radical groups, such as Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Qa­tari government has denied the allegations.