Doha continues to walk down the wrong path

Qatar is a 'problem', but the Gulf state must mend its ways before it can return to the fold

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir speaks during a press availability with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
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In a White House week characterised in part by revolving doors and resignations, there was also the hanging question of Gulf rapprochement as a delegation from Saudi Arabia completed its successful visit to Washington DC.

The rumbling domestic crisis the White House appears to be embroiled in could not drown out the more soothing mood music emanating from Donald Trump's meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The US president described the bilateral relationship as "the strongest it's ever been. We understand each other". Those relations extend to billions of dollars of investment.

As The National reported, the kingdom's foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir spoke about the signing of memorandums of understanding and business agreements at the end of the Crown Prince's visit to Washington and hinted at the possibility of a summit at Camp David later this year to discuss regional affairs. When pressed on the matter of whether Qatar would be on the agenda at such a summit, Mr Al Jubeir was unequivocal. The fracture with Qatar was an "inter-GCC" issue rather than something that required broader international intervention. Referring to a recent terror list released by Doha, Mr Al Jubeir also said: "This is an acknowledgement of a problem ... We hope that Qatar will return to the right path and correct its mistakes."

His words are both frank and realistic. There is, of course, no great expectation among Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that Qatar will fully mend its ways. Doha is linked to multiple extremist and terror groups – it has been described by Mr Trump as a "funder of terrorism at the highest level" – and it is the quartet's view that Qatar has done nothing to stem the flow of funding to extremists since the boycott began. So, until Qatar returns to the "right path" – and that means turning its back on Iran and its deep links to terrorism – the boycott will remain in place.

Separately, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, tweeted on Friday that "Qatar is confirming the evidence against it and that its support for extremism and terrorism is at the core of its crisis." His remarks were in reference to the same terror list referenced by Mr Al Jubeir. The list includes several names that had previously been identified by the quartet.

Dr Gargash also rightly highlighted Doha’s “obstinacy” in the face of international condemnation. Until Qatar changes its tune, there will be no alteration of position by the quartet. Instead, that obstinacy will be matched by the quartet’s determination to stick to its principled course.