Qatar’s conflicting calculations complicate crisis, impede mediations

September 10, 2017
Failed attempts. US President Donald Trump (R) and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah arrive for a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, on September 7. (AFP)

London- The Qatari crisis has re­mained impervious to mediation attempts by US President Donald Trump and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah.

Even a phone call by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Saudi Crown Prince Moham­med bin Salman bin Abdulaziz on September 8 further complicated matters after Doha refused to admit that it initiated the call, triggering an angry reaction from Riyadh.

“The contact was at the request of Qatar and its request for dialogue,” said the state-run Saudi Press Agen­cy, quoting an official source in the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

“This proves that the authority in Qatar is not serious in dialogue and continues its previous policies. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declares that any dialogue or communica­tion with the authority in Qatar shall be suspended until a clear statement explaining its position is made in public.”

An initial Saudi statement said the Qatari emir “expressed his de­sire to sit at the dialogue table and discuss the demands of the four countries” and that the crown prince had “welcomed this desire.”

Upbeat statements made by Sheikh Sabah during a September 7 visit to Washington also fuelled controversy.

Sheikh Sabah, whose country has been trying to mediate a solu­tion to the dispute between Qatar and the Saudi-led Arab quartet, said during a news conference with Trump, that “Qatar is ready to meet all the demands” set forth by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.

The Arab quartet is request­ing Doha end what it sees as its support to Islamic extremists and close ties to Tehran.

There is “still hope that the cri­sis will end very soon,” the Kuwaiti emir added.

His comments were quickly shown to be unduly optimistic, as Qatari Foreign Minister Moham­med bin Abdulrahman al-Thani declared on the same day that any dialogue should be preceded by the lifting of sanctions. He rejected the Arab bloc’s 13 demands, saying they “attacked the sovereignty” of Qatar.

The quartet of countries opposed to Qatar was quick to react to Doha’s stance, issuing a joint statement saying: “Placing preconditions on dialogue shows Qatar’s lack of seriousness towards dialogue, combating and funding terror­ism and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”

The statement said the four coun­tries were “disappointed” by the Kuwaiti emir’s comments that his country’s mediation had averted the possibility of military interven­tion, pointing out that “a military solution never was and will never be on the table.”

During the news conference, Trump said he was ready to facili­tate a solution.

“I would be willing to do so, and I think you’d have a deal worked out very quickly,” he said.

On September 8, the White House announced that Trump had spoken separately with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Sheikh Tamim.

“The president underscored that unity among the United States’ Arab partners is essential to pro­moting regional stability and coun­tering the threat of Iran,” said a White House readout.

“The president also emphasised that all countries must follow through on commitments from the Riyadh summit to defeat terrorism, cut off funding for terrorist groups and combat extremist ideology.”

With the crisis at a standstill, Qa­tari opposition figures planned an unprecedented conference in Lon­don.

The organiser, Qatari dissident Khalid al-Hail, said the conference September 14 has received wide support within Qatar.

He expressed the view that the crisis could well extend into 2018 and may trigger a large-scale civil disobedience drive in Qatar, with a “white coup” a possible result.

“Civil disobedience is highly like­ly, although still far off,” Hail said.