Qatar continues antagonistic behaviour while seeking Kuwaiti mediation efforts

The interception of the Emirati Airbus is the latest in a series of antagonistic acts by Qatar since last June.
Sunday 29/04/2018
Qatari Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets prepare to take-off. (AFP)
Risky moves. Qatari Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets prepare to take-off. (AFP)

LONDON - Prospects of a resolution to the 11-month-old dispute with Qatar deteriorated with the United Arab Emirates accusing Qatar’s Air Force of intercepting one of its commercial jetliners.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority said Qatari fighter jets flew dangerously close to an Emirati civilian Airbus carrying 86 passengers in Bahraini airspace.

The authority said in a statement that the move “is a clear repetition of a threat to the safety of civil aviation and a breach of international laws and agreements” and that it would file a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

A statement from the Bahraini Foreign Ministry said the commercial Airbus 320 was on its usual route from King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, to Abu Dhabi. It said the flight was scheduled and had all required permits. The Foreign Ministry statement claimed repeated provocations from Qatar were a threat to passengers’ lives and a serious violation of international laws.

The statement from the Bahraini government came as the trial involving three Bahraini nationals charged with spying for Qatar was winding down, with a verdict expected in June, Bahrain’s public prosecutor said.

Bahraini Public Prosecutor Osama al-Oufi said the three suspects were charged with sharing intelligence with a foreign country with the aim of carrying out hostile acts to undermine the kingdom’s political and economic institutions. The defendants are also charged with passing defence secrets to a foreign country and providing it with information related to the internal situation of the country.

The interception of the Emirati Airbus is the latest in a series of antagonistic acts by Qatar since last June when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed commercial and diplomatic ties with Qatar over issues, including its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its ties with Iran.

Doha’s leadership has reportedly been trying to rekindle mediation efforts to end the dispute with the quartet of countries.

Gulf Arab sources said the April 23 visit by Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani to Kuwait was linked to a Qatari request to revive mediation efforts regarding the dispute with the so-called Arab Quartet. Publicly the trip was intended to show that Doha is not isolated and that it can emerge from the crisis unscathed.

The sources said Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah intended to reach a breakthrough to the crisis at the recent Arab League summit. However, with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani opting not to attend the meeting due to what sources said were unfavourable conditions, Sheikh Sabah brought up mediation talks on the sidelines of the meeting.

Although the likelihood of a breakthrough is slim, the sources said Kuwaiti officials were optimistic they can achieve one because there apparently is a willingness by Qatar to accept the 13 conditions set forth by the Arab Quartet, provided Sheikh Tamim can find a face-saving scenario in which to accept them.

Before the Arab League summit, foreign ministers for the Arab Quartet stressed their “firm position on Qatar’s addressing the list of 13 demands and their adherence to the Six Principles of the Cairo meeting and Manama Declaration as a foundation for normalising relations,” the official Saudi press agency said.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir warned that without US military protection, Doha would “fall in less than a week.”

The official Saudi Press Agency quoted Jubeir as saying Qatar should pay for the presence of US troops in Syria and should deploy troops there itself before the United States removes its support for Qatar. The comments were very similar to those made by US President Donald Trump during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Washington.

The US military has a significant presence at Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar.