Saudi Arabia has once more suspended talks with Qatar over the ‘Qatar crisis.’ Qatar has attempted to open a dialogue on the day of September 8, in which resulted in a phone conversation between the Qatari leader and the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince. However, after the phone conversation, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of distorting facts regarding the dialogue and once more cut off conversational ties with the nation.
Qatar has been cut off from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and (partially) Egypt since June 5. The four nations have severed relations with Qatar over issues of terrorism, as all four claim that Qatar supports Islamic extremist entities. Qatar has admitted to providing assistance to certain groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but denies assisting other groups such as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. Saudi Arabia also takes issue with Qatar’s diplomatic relations with Iran, which is Saudi Arabia’s main competitor regionally in the oil industry.
The four nations presented Qatar with a list of demands on June 22, giving Qatar a 14-day window in which to comply. By June 5, the nations reported that they had received a “negative response” from Qatar. The list of demands included severing diplomatic ties with Iran, severing ties with “terrorist organizations,” shutting down Al Jazeera and other news organizations, and aligning themselves with other Arab countries militarily, politically, socially, and economically. Qatar viewed these demands as a threat to its political sovereignty. On July 5th, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani said that sacrificing their sovereignty for these demands was something Qatar would “never do.” By July 18, the four nations said that they were no longer expecting Qatar to adhere to all 13 points of their list, but instead wanted it to commit to six “principles.” BBC News notes that these were “combating terrorism and extremism, denying financing and safe havens to terrorist groups, stopping incitement to hatred and violence, and refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.” So far, Qatar has refused to comply with these demands.
The crisis initially had a severe effect on Qatar’s population, as Qatar depended on imports to fulfil the people’s basic needs. 40% of Qatar’s food was imported through the land border with Saudi Arabia. However, Iran and Turkey began sending food by air and sea, lessening the severity of the food crisis. Due to air restrictions, Qatar Airways has had to cancel flights to 18 cities and rerouted to other continued flights. Qatar lost 10% in stock market value during the first four weeks of the crisis, although it has recovered by 6% in the time since.
BBC News notes that the phone call on September 8 came after President Trump spoke with both Saudi Arabia and Qatar separately about the crisis. The White House released a press statement which said that “The president underscored that unity among the United States’ Arab partners is essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran.” The opening of a dialogue between the nations was seen as a potential breakthrough in the crisis, but it fell apart within hours.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the leader of Qatar “expressed his desire to sit at the dialogue table and discuss the demands of the four countries.” Saudi Arabia reportedly agreed to attempt to reach such an agreement with Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
However, the Qatar News Agency reported that the Saudi Crown Prince suggested assigning “two envoys to resolve controversial issues in a way that does not affect the sovereignty of states.”
BBC News reports that the “row appears to be over protocol,” as the Qatar News Agency failed to report that the attempt to begin a dialogue originated with Qatar. Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of not being “serious” before cutting off ties once more.