Qatar’s Foreign Minister publicly called on the UN to help resolve the ongoing Gulf crisis last Thursday and also accused Saudi Arabia of violating international law for blockading countries.
This was discussed privately between Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The Qatari Foreign Minister appears to have found a lacking of receptiveness from the Security Council and General Assembly due to Gutteres’ support for ongoing regional efforts being led by Kuwait.
The UN, as the world’s leading intergovernmental organisation, would, according to Al Thani, provide the “right platform” to help re-launch diplomatic efforts aimed at de-escalating tensions between the feuding Gulf nations. He then went on to point out how the blockading quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain have so far shown “stubbornness” and have not taken steps to solve the crisis.
Even worse, according to Qataris, is that the actions taken by the four countries can be described as illegal. The blockade aims to infringe on the oil-exporting nations’ sovereignty by adding a further 18 names to the list of terrorist groups/organizations, which they believe help to foment and carry out attacks in the region. Notably, this list is one that Qatar sees as politically motivated because it includes the name of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (a group known for its close ties with Qatar).
Another accusation built along similar lines is the one levelled by Qatari officials who claim that the weeks-long crisis was sparked by a cyber-attack in May, which they believe is linked to the UAE. The UAE has denied any involvement in that particular attack, which is said to have involved fabricated comments attributed to the Qatari emir. Those comments were posted on the official state news agency and affiliated social media accounts, in which he supposedly called Iran an “Islamic power” and said Qatar’s relations with Israel are “good.” Qatar swiftly disavowed the comments, however state-owned and semi-official media in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain continued to report on the remarks for days. This is an example of the divisive media campaign strategy employed by all sides since the row first broke out. Al Thani went on to describe the Gulf crisis as being based on a “fragile foundation, which is a cyber-attack, which is considered an electronic terrorism against the state of Qatar.”
As it pertains to the current impasse, the Qataris have for so long emphasized the importance of having their sovereignty respected, which is an allusion to the coercive and unrealistic nature of demands imposed on Qatar by the quartet. However, what remains clear is the widening gap between both sides that would, in part, help to explain the private lobbying efforts that have been undertaken by both Saudi and Qatari diplomats to garner support from UN Security Council members. Such efforts are consistent with the Qatari Foreign Minister’s claim that “there is a role for the Security Council and for the General Assembly and all the United Nations mechanisms.”
This and other developments over the past week should be seen by Western allies as a significant setback, especially when considering the mediating efforts undertaken by them, such as the shuttle diplomacy by the likes of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his British counterpart Boris Johnson. Their regional visits are still viewed as an attempt to reduce tensions between the ‘warring’ sides. Unfortunately, the hopes of achieving that very same purpose appear to have been hampered, with the U.S. State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, saying that the crisis is “at a standstill.”
As such, the present mood is a sharp contrast to the euphoria that greeted the news of Qatar’s new resolve to address its neighbours’ concerns, especially since its rulers’ recent decree revising the country’s counter-terrorism laws, coupled with the signing of a memorandum of understanding, which signaled Qatar’s aim to “track down and disable terror financing” to blockading countries. All of this works to explain why the U.S. is now “urging direct talks between all of the parties because we believe that in order for the situation to be resolved—and it does need to be resolved—they have to sit down together and have some direct dialogue.”
Thus, there is a need to steer both parties’ attention toward items at the top of their collective agendas, such as the wars in both Syria, Yemen, and the ongoing fight against ISIS. Yet, it remains unclear whether the lobbying and diplomatic efforts aimed at drawing support from international partners, such as the UN, can result in any meaningful solutions that all sides can agree to. For instance, if recent efforts are anything to go by, it appears likely that the process of appeasing all sides will be a long-drawn affair, which is a possibility that risks permanently damaging relations between states seen as key players in the war against ISIS and other extremist groups.
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