Home Middle East & Turkey Middle East Saudi King invites Qatar for the first time since blockade

Saudi King invites Qatar for the first time since blockade

King Salman, the King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, has sent an invitation to Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to attend the emergency GCC summit in Mecca on May 30, amid GCC blockade since 2017.

blockade

News Desk |

A statement published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday night confirmed that a written invitation had been received “from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, inviting HH the Amir to attend the GCC emergency summit in Makkah Al Mukkramah, on May 30.”

Qatar had been previously excluded from the attendee list of countries invited to the emergency summits on May 30 in Mecca due to being diplomatically and economically blockaded by its Gulf neighbors, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, in June 2017, amid claims over Qatar’s alleged involvement in funding terrorism and for having close relations with Iran.

Qatar previously barred from attending emergency summits in Saudi Arabia

According to the Saudi Press Agency, King Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, last week, had summoned the Gulf and Arab allies for two emergency summits starting from May 30, in the wake of the attacks on Saudi oil assets, to discuss the political and economic repercussions of the attacks, an official from Qatar’s foreign ministry confirmed in a tweet that Qatar had not been invited to attend the emergency meetings hosted by the KSA in Mecca on May 30.

The invitation is perhaps a sign of better days to come for Qatar that has long endured an un-called for resistance from its neighbours.

The tweet by the director of the Foreign Ministry Information Office on May 20, quoting the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, stated that “Qatar, which is still isolated from its neighbours, did not receive an invitation to attend the two summits,”

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Emergency summits in Mecca

The call for an emergency meeting by the KSA came out as a result of the attacks on Saudi oil assets allegedly carried out by Iran-backed Houthi Rebels. Last week, two of Saudi oil tankers were attacked in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and two pumping stations of the Kingdom had been attacked via drone strikes on Tuesday.

Following attacks on the Saudi oil instalments, US accused Iran of launching a rocket attack on a highly fortified Green Zone in Baghdad that had landed less than a mile from the US embassy in Iraq. It was later confirmed, by a top Iraqi military spokesperson, that the attack had been launched from the east of Baghdad; an area of predominantly Iran-backed Shiite militias majority.

The statements that followed the attacks from both the KSA’s and Iranian officials stated that none wanted to go for war with the other. However, both vowed to defend their territorial integrity, if hindered. Whereas, the tweet that followed the attacks by the US President, Donald J. Trump had threatened to “officially end” Iran if the attacks continued.

The call for an emergency meeting by the KSA came out as a result of the attacks on Saudi oil assets allegedly carried out by Iran-backed Houthi Rebels.

The tweet had been perceived as an attempt of genocidal coercion and had met with an equivalent threatening response from Iran, consequential to the inevitable audibility of war drums. Furthermore, the United Arab Emirates, a major strategic ally of the KSA, while avoiding the blame-game issued a statement; “The current critical circumstances entail a unified Arab and Gulf stance toward the besetting challenges and risks,”

On the contrary, however, barring Qatar out from the meeting had signified that the Gulf allies blocked Qatar in 2017, had not yet considered the option of lifting the blockade. However, with this invitation, it can be perhaps assumed that the antagonist neighbouring states have softened their stance towards Qatar and have acknowledged Qatar’s role in the Gulf as significant.

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Being a key strategic ally to both Iran and the US, Qatar can potentially play a greater role of a mediator in the on-going conflict that could prevent a possible war in the Gulf.

Qatar’s mediation between Iran and the US

The invitation comes from King Salman of the KSA, amid Qatar’s confirmation to attend Trump’s peace conference in Bahrain for the Palestinian solution, in June. Being a close ally to the US establishment, The Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, had also visited Iran earlier this month, in an attempt to head off the growing tensions between the US, Iran and the Gulf States.

The statements that followed the attacks from both the KSA’s and Iranian officials stated that none wanted to go for war with the other.

According to a source, quoted by Al Jazeera, the aim of the visit was primarily to play the role of a diplomatic-mediator, to help reduce the intensity of the crisis between the US and Iran caused as a result of the US withdrawal from the landmark, Iran Nuclear Deal in May 2018.

The source quoted by Al-Jazeera confirmed that the meeting took place between The Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and his counterpart in Iran, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran. However, it is still unclear whether if Qatar had carried a message by the US for Iran.

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Qatar a key US ally

The Qatar-US alliance is primarily a strategic one that focuses on security and economic interdependence. However, there is a clear-cut contrast between policies of the Trump administration towards Qatar and in the policies of the Pentagon and the State Department towards Qatar. This contrast is primarily driven by Trump administration’s tilt towards the neighbouring Gulf States.

US accused Iran of launching a rocket attack on a highly fortified Green Zone in Baghdad that had landed less than a mile from the US embassy in Iraq.

Holistically, however, the Pentagon and the State Department holds precedence over the administration in terms of foreign policy. The Pentagon has, on numerous occasions, praised Qatar’s “enduring commitment towards regional security”. Qatar hosts the Al Udeid Air Base, the largest US air base in the region in addition to approximately 10,000 U.S. troops at the base.

The base is established for furthering its military operation in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The state department has affirmed its commitment to its independent alliance with Qatar and has adopted a neutral stance on the issue of the blockade, encouraging dialogue between the Gulf States.

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Qatar – a major stakeholder in the Gulf

Qatar’s role as a key stakeholder in the Gulf is signified by its alliance with both Iran and the US. Sidelining Qatar from the emergency summit reflected insecurity of the allied bloc that not only economically but had also politically boycotted it. The invitation is perhaps a sign of better days to come for Qatar that has long endured an un-called for resistance from its neighbours.

In fact, it reaffirms Qatar’s place in the Gulf as a significant strategic partner state. Despite the stringent economic and political blockade put on Qatar by its neighbouring Gulf States, it is admissible to acknowledge that the peace process within the Gulf region would be a fragmented task to achieve.

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