Qatar’s conflicting calculations complicate crisis, impede mediations
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.