Qatar dispute continues despite international mediation efforts

Sunday 30/07/2017
Conflicting interests. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (L) shaking hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Jeddah, on July 23. (AFP)

London- After weeks of shuttle di­plomacy from the Unit­ed States, France, the United Kingdom and others, the Gulf crisis, which has seen Saudi Arabia and its allies sever ties with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism, looks likely to continue. The latest high-profile diplomatic attempt to resolve the dispute, by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, failed to yield results.
Erdogan, who has sided with Doha from the onset of the dis­pute, referred to the sanctions on Qatar as un-Islamic and likened them to a “death penalty,” words that were unlikely to endear him to the governments opposing Qatar.
Factoring into Erdogan’s visit was the fact that his government is known for its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is one of the chief components of the dis­pute.
The Saudi-led bloc issued 13 demands it said Doha must com­ply with for the sanctions to be lifted. One of the demands was the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar, which houses more than 3,000 military personnel, in­cluding special operations units, ground troops and military train­ers.
Gulf media, which usually en­dorse the regional policy positions of their governments, mostly wel­comed Erdogan’s visit. Misgivings about his role as a mediator, how­ever, were expressed.
Saudi newspapers reported fac­tually on Erdogan’s meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud although many editorials stressed that the solution to the crisis should be sought within the region.
The lead editorial in the Saudi daily Al Yaum, urged for the cri­sis to “be resolved within the Gulf house.” The publication said: “The Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] con­tinues to believe that the solution to the crisis lies within the Gulf House, not beyond it and that Doha should not seek to internationalise the crisis and enter it into a dark tunnel that will only cause further complications and bring the crisis to an impasse and uncertain end. This is something that the [Gulf Cooperation Council] GCC coun­tries do not want to see.”
A less diplomatic tone was tak­en in an editorial by prominent Saudi journalist Jameel al-Thiyabi, who, in the widely circulated Okaz newspaper, warned about Tur­key’s designs for the region.
“What does Turkey want from Qatar?” asked Thiyabi. “It’s no longer a question that needs to be asked. After the diplomatic crisis worsened following Qatar’s ob­stinacy, this question has become relevant. Is Turkey hoping to real­ise its imperial designs in the Gulf through the gates of Qatar?”
Besides Saudi Arabia, Erdogan visited Kuwait, which has played the role of mediator, and Qatar.
Despite refraining from using the same rhetoric as during his visit to the Gulf, and endorsing Kuwaiti mediation as the way for­ward, Erdogan’s attempts at di­plomacy seem to have had the op­posite effect: The day after he left the region, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt issued a black­list of 18 groups and individuals al­leged to have direct or indirect ties to Doha.
The quartet had previously des­ignated 59 individuals and 12 enti­ties with alleged ties to Qatar on its terrorism list.
In an interview on the US net­work PBS’s “Charlie Rose” pro­gramme, UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba said that one of the underlying issues linked to the dispute was Doha’s failure to fulfil its pledge as a party to the 2014 Riyadh agreement.
“Unfortunately, everything that has been signed into this agree­ment has been violated for the last three years,” Otaiba said, adding that the four countries’ frustration had hit a new level.

The ambassador said the dispute is over what kind of future GCC countries want.
“If you ask UAE, Saudi, Jor­dan, Egypt, Bahrain, what kind of Middle East they want to see ten years from now, it will be fun­damentally opposed to what I think Qatar wants to see ten years from now,” Otaiba said, adding that the UAE and its allies want a more secular, stable, prosperous and empowered region.
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.