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Has Efforts to End GCC Crisis been Suspended?

The talks began in October last year over a rift that saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, along with Egypt, severing political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017. However, the talks have reportedly been suspended now. What does it mean for the Middle East?

Qatar

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, has said that efforts to resolve a years-long Gulf diplomatic crisis were not successful and were suspended at the start of January. “It’s been almost three years. We were not perpetrators and are open to any offer to resolve this problem,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman said at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. “Unfortunately efforts did not succeed and were suspended at the beginning of January and Qatar is not responsible for this,” he added.

It is worth noting that Qatar and Saudi Arabia were coming closer to resolving long-standing issues amicably. Reliable sources claimed that the soccer tournament in Doha was likely to play an instrumental role in leading towards a possible breakthrough between Qatar and a Saudi-led bloc. Kuwait was said to be the country playing a prominent role in helping these countries to resolve their outstanding issues through dialogue.

It is important to note that Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Bahrain have agreed to take part in the Gulf soccer cup in Qatar in November, more than two years after severing diplomatic and economic ties with their gas-rich neighbor.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is known for his moderate views with an inclusive foreign policy agenda, recently invited Iran, Kingdom’s perceived political rival, for dialogue so that all issues are resolved through political channels. Iran welcomed the gesture and assured to play its due rule.

Read More: Children suffer worst due to Blockade imposed on Qatar

MBS was expected to lead the talks and resolve matters with the state of Qatar. It was believed that a divided Muslim world was not in the interest of any individual state in the age of globalization. Therefore, analysts expected a major breakthrough since both the Emir of Qatar and MBS were known for their enthusiastic economic agenda, political liberation, and economy-driven foreign policy.

GCC Countries Sever Diplomatic Ties with Qatar

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties and trade relations with Qatar, closing land, air and sea links, as they accused Doha of supporting “terrorism” and their regional rival, Iran. Doha vehemently denies the charges and says the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.

As a result of the blockade, Qatar is facing several challenges. Maryam bint Abdullah al-Attiyah, Secretary-General National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), pointed to “the seriousness of the violations affecting Qatari children as a result of the blockade imposed on the country, expressing regret that the celebration of the Universal Children’s Day coincided with the continuing violations and discriminatory measures of the blockade countries, which did not exclude any category of Qatari society, including children”.

 

Secretary-General called on the blockade countries to stop their violations that did not exclude children, to abide by the international laws and conventions they have ratified in the field of protecting children’s rights, and to implement the resolutions of international organizations and bodies asking them to stop their violations. She also hoped that the international community may play a role in this regard to protect the rights of children and women in the State of Qatar.

On the economic front, Qatar has been able to deal with the blockade. “We’ve overcome the obstacles of the blockade and we’re also closer to achieving Qatar’s national vision for the year 2030,” the Emir said. The Emir also said that Qatar would post a budget surplus this year, its first in three years, after a deficit a year ago.

Last year, the oil and gas-rich country had forecast a 4.3bn riyal ($1.1bn) budget surplus in 2019, after an estimated 28.1bn riyal deficit in 2018.

Read More: Reconciliation between Qatar and Jordan: A blow to the Gulf Blockade?

In May 2018, Qatar’s largest commercial bank, Qatar National Bank (QNB), reported that the country’s account surplus has widened to 6.4 percent of the gross domestic product in the fourth quarter.

In his speech, Sheikh Tamim said the country’s currency maintained its value despite various attempts aimed at dismantling it since the start of the Gulf diplomatic crisis. The growth witnessed by Qatar’s economy in various sectors, including education, health, food, and agriculture, following the blockade are part of programs adopted by the state to diversify its economy. “We executed national programs that enhanced local production,” Sheikh Tamim said, referring specifically to the last three years.

Kuwait, a ‘Great’ Mediator

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah of Kuwait has categorically stated that the dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors “is no longer acceptable” and must be resolved. He was addressing the opening session of parliament’s new term, Sheikh Sabah said the boycott has greatly weakened the unity of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Qatar is a member.

Read More: How Did Qatar Overcome Obstacles Of Gulf Blockade?

Sheikh Sabah, who has been acting as a mediator to resolve the dispute, said the “row has weakened our capabilities and threatened our achievements”, calling for a negotiated solution. The Emir called for national unity in the face of regional developments and protests in several Arab countries.

It is yet to be seen how does the Emir of Qatar now reacts when the state of Qatar has formally stated that the talks between Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been suspended without any logical conclusion.

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