A little over a year ago, four Arab countries- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt- imposed a land, air, and sea blockade on the country of Qatar as they accused the nation of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. On the 6th of July, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in France’s capital, Paris, to discuss the the crisis caused by this blockade on the gulf of Qatar. During their meeting, President Macron called for the end of the blockade, stating, “Qatar suffers daily from the measures that have been taken, families have been separated because of the crisis. We talked about the crisis and we agree that it must be solved through dialogue.” Macron also reassured that Qatar is a helpful ally in the fight to bring an end to terrorism on a global scale.
France has strong ties with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and thus has the opportunity to play a critical role in mediating the conversation surrounding the blockade. President Macron has been very vocal about drawing a close to the blockade. The Huffington Post stated in an article that due to their“close ties with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, and major investments throughout the greater Middle East, France has high stakes in the outcome of the [Gulf Cooperation Council]’s feud.” However, despite numerous attempts of diplomatic means to end the blockade, the four countries have refused until Qatar accepts their list of thirteen demands.
The Arab countries set out a list of 13 demands that they want Qatar to follow before they consider ending the blockade. Some of the demands include: shutting down Al Jazeera and its affiliate stations, rolling back relations with Iran, to close the Turkish military base in Qatar, to cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and much more. Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has stated that these demands are a violation to the sovereignty to Qatar.
Macron argues that isolating Qatar from the rest of the world will have long-lasting harmful effects on both the global community and the nation itself. However, many argue that due to Qatar’s ties to terrorist organizations, the blockade cannot be lifted until the nation concedes.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has denied the accusations that Qatar supports terrorism. In an article published on the Atlantic, journalist Eric Trager wrote, “Saudi Arabia and the UAE particularly view Qatar’s support for Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as lethally threatening to their own regimes, and therefore see Qatar’s behavior as not merely objectionable, but utterly intolerable.” The nation’s support of terrorism, combined with their current efforts to strengthen their military to compete on a global stage, leave many countries wary of giving into Qatar’s demands.
According to Al Jazeera, the crisis has prompted Qatar to expand their military capabilities. According to the Associated Press, Saudi Arabia has reached out to France to help prevent Qatar from purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile system, but France has decided to stay out of this particular issue. Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani stated at a news conference that though there was conversations with Russia to obtain weapons, there has been no deal as of yet. With continued concerns regarding the instability in the region, many nations call for Qatar to accept the terms in the deal. In an article by Asharq Al-Awsat, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has stated that it is imperative that Qatar accepts these demands in order for things to “return to normal”.
Though the chances of things “returning back to normal” seem slim, there is an air of hope that the usage of dialogue can be the means to the end for this matter. There is a sense of urgency when we look at who this event is impacting, the people. There are families separated because of the blockade and with the assistance of France, hopefully a diplomatic approach can find compromise.
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