Qatar tells Davos Red Sea solution depends on defusing Gaza war

Palestine-Israel conflict overshadows World Economic Forum meeting in Davos

Sailors aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Mason patrol the Red Sea after Houthi attacks on shipping.  Photo: US Navy
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Qatar has warned the Red Sea crisis will not be solved without defusing the “real issue” of the Israel-Gaza conflict, as the war overshadowed a gathering of the world’s elite in the Swiss Alps.

Politicians and business executives are meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos as Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping give another jolt to global trade and widen the fallout of the Israel-Gaza war.

Saudi Arabia warned the war was dragging the entire region into great danger.

Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told delegates US and British air strikes on Yemen’s Houthis would not contain the crisis without diplomatic efforts.

The situation in the Middle East “is a recipe for escalation everywhere,” Sheikh Mohammed said, warning against “just focusing on the symptoms and not treating the real issue”.

“We need to address the real issue, which is Gaza, in order to get everything else defused,” he added.

“We shouldn’t just focus on those small conflicts, we should focus on the main conflict in Gaza, and as soon as it’s defused I believe everything else will be defused.”

It would be up to the Palestinian people whether Hamas should be part of any postwar settlement, said Sheikh Mohammed, who called on Israel to make binding commitments to a two-state solution to the conflict.

If foreign powers do not approve of Hamas’s ideology, “you have to replace it with a better idea”, he said. “The better idea is to bring the two-state solution back to the table.”

After months of Israeli bombardment, “Gaza is not there any more”, he said. “It’s carpet bombing everywhere.”

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan used his appearance in Davos to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Asked whether Riyadh could recognise Israel as part of a wider resolution of the Middle East conflict, Prince Faisal said: “Certainly.”

However, he added, “what Israel is doing now is putting the prospects for regional peace and security at risk.

“There is a pathway towards a much better future for the region, for the Palestinians and for Israel. That is peace and we are fully committed to that.

“The first step for that is ceasefire. Ceasefire, of course, means ceasefire on all sides but that should be a starting point towards a permanent sustainable peace, which can only happen through true justice for the Palestinians.”

Prince Faisal said Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea were connected to the war in Gaza, and an immediate ceasefire would address that threat.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that overreliance on one country or trade route “comes with risks”.

Israel has shown no sign of bowing to international pressure for a ceasefire after the war in Gaza, set off by Hamas’s surprise attack last October, passed the 100-day mark on Sunday.

Iran launched strikes on Iraq and Syria on Monday amid heightened tension across the region. Tehran claimed it was aiming at an Israeli intelligence headquarters and a military base that hosts US troops.

The conflict has also raised unrest in western countries as people take to the streets to support the Palestinian or Israeli cause.

The 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos – in pictures

This year’s Davos meeting has a theme of “rebuilding trust” after risk assessors warned on the eve of the summit that conflicts and disinformation give the world a bleak outlook for the coming years.

Swiss President Viola Amherd warned guests that AI-fuelled disinformation could worsen the distrust that some people feel in “all of us gathered here, and all political and business leaders”.

“When the alleged elite flaunts its wealth while many families can barely make ends meet, mistrust grows,” she said.

“At that point, the international community and governments are no longer heard and no longer understood, even if they put forward great proposals.”

Ukraine message

Attending the summit in person for the first time since Russia's invasion in February 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited leaders to attend a global peace summit.

Switzerland has agreed to host a separate summit on Mr Zelenskyy's “peace formula” after meetings between security officials from 80 countries on the sidelines of Davos.

Mr Zelenskyy encouraged every country “that respects peace” to attend the talks as he urged delegates that “peace must be the answer”.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “stolen at least 13 years of peace” through his actions in Ukraine, Syria and other countries.

“Putin is trying to normalise something that should have ended in the 20th century. Putin embodies war,” he said. “We must make it possible for a just and stable peace.”

Ms von der Leyen urged European leaders to “continue to empower” Ukraine's resistance against Russia amid persistent chatter that western solidarity is fraying.

“Ukrainians need predictable financing throughout 2024 and beyond. They need a sustained supply of weapons to defend Ukraine and regain its rightful territory,” she said.

“They need capabilities to deter future attacks by Russia. And they also need hope. They need to know that, with their struggle, they will earn a better future for their children. And Ukraine's better future is called Europe.”

Updated: January 17, 2024, 5:05 AM