Kuwait may be key in Qatar row

It is up to Doha to change its policies if the GCC impasse is to be resolved, Habib Al Sayegh writes in Al Ittihad.

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As days go by, the “joint statement” countries – UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – are proving the robust nature of their stance over the Gulf Cooperation Council rift. Meanwhile, Qatar’s position appears ever more precarious, especially since it is not based on objective findings, but rather on provocation in the hope of creating an opportunity to reclaim a long-lost scenario. It also utterly ignores the change in circumstance that has come to light.

In recent statements to the press, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud bin Faisal, clearly and unequivocally linked any detente in the current crisis to Qatar’s willingness to modify its politics. At the same time, he denied any US mediation in the crisis in tandem with the US president Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to the region later this month.

There seems to be no inclination among Gulf nations to list the conflict between Qatar and the joint-statement countries on the agenda of the upcoming Arab Summit in Kuwait. The GCC states consider the issue as strictly concerning the Gulf and one that must remain within the confines of the GCC.

These states deem that any discussion of the issue at the Arab League or on the sidelines of an Arab summit would undermine the GCC and its member states and leaderships’ ability to address issues. From a historical and a geographical point of view, the GCC and the Arab League are two separate organisations with different roles and specialisations, and these differences apply to both organisations’ diplomatic and political practices as well.

What remains in this case?

It seems as though Kuwait intends to act as a mediator in the dispute, which began with the UAE, Saudi and Bahrain’s decision to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar.

Attempts by Kuwait to bridge the gap are customary and expected. At the present time the UAE and both its sisterly nations have not been notified of any new Kuwaiti mediation in the matter.

For its part, Qatar seems to have a lot riding on Kuwait’s intervention, noting that the Kuwaiti emir hails from the generation of wise leaders and has played a most valuable role in resolving differences among GCC member states in the past, namely the mediation that led to the Riyadh Agreement. The Kuwaiti leader may be the only person qualified to assume such a role again, albeit taking into consideration new developments that didn’t exist before.

Past inter-Gulf conflicts were, for the most part, superficial and they would often be resolved amiably. But what about the present disagreement?

The controversy at hand is of a fundamental nature. It is no ordinary matter, as the Qataris have been trying to depict it or interpret it. It is the kind of dispute that must be eliminated at the roots, starting with the underlying causes – and this can only be done by Qatar itself.

Should Kuwait, through its trusted emir Sabah Al Ahmad, be mandated to intervene, Qatar’s dependence and expectations out of such an intervention should be put in perspective.

An agreement was signed in Riyadh pertaining to the security of the Arab Gulf – and it never materialised. Although the agreement bore the signature of the young Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, Qatar retracted completely its approval of the agreement, a step unheard of in political practices and diplomatic customs. Hence, Kuwait’s reconciliatory efforts must focus on this issue, since that Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad vowed at the time of signing the Riyadh agreement to see to its full implementation.

Another consideration not to be ignored is that Qatar has done nothing to remedy the situation since the withdrawal of the ambassadors.

On the contrary, Qatar opted for escalation as it attempted, directly and indirectly, to create ambiguity about the real causes of the conflict.

We therefore hope that Kuwait will take into consideration that it itself was party to an agreement that Qatar obliterated unconditionally, and that the utmost priority should be given to Qatar fulfilling its commitments – that is, by explicitly modifying its policies.

The present environment is laden with dramatic rearrangements of situations and can no longer allow for a conventional resolution of differences. This phase can’t sustain any more cosmetic interventions.

The events in the Gulf today place great challenges before all of its nations. The state of Qatar is required to conduct a serious review of the situation. It shouldn’t be acceptable for Qatar to “belittle” Bahrain, or to try to make it look as if the dispute is restricted to the UAE and that Saudi isn’t a part of it.

It is unreasonable to scale down the Emirati-Qatari dispute and restrict it to strained tweets between both parties. The UAE’s demands are the same as Saudi’s and Bahrain’s. They are the demands of all honourable Arabs that stand against fragmentation, radicalisation, sectarianism, terrorism and fostering powers of darkness.

Let our brothers in Qatar remember well that the Emirati media has dealt with the current crisis with the utmost responsibility and professionalism. Emirati officials, unlike their Qatari counterparts, were keen not to make any derogatory statements to the media.

Finally, we confirm once again that Qatar is required to change its modus operandi. In any other way, no mediation from Kuwait or otherwise could be potent.

Just as the decision to withdraw the ambassadors was made collectively, Qatar must realise that any resolution of the conflict it created should be collective, too.

Habib Al Sayegh is a columnist for Al Ittihad newspaper, The National’s sister paper, where this column was first published. It was translated by Racha Makarem