Qatar dispute continues despite international mediation efforts
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.