Home Middle East & Turkey Middle East The Myth of a “unified Gulf”; Qatar strikes back

The Myth of a “unified Gulf”; Qatar strikes back

Qatar has been blockaded by Saudi Arabia since 2017 but Qatari officials have attended OIC summit in Qatar. Qatari foreign minister has shown his dissatisfaction regarding Saudia's behavior towards Iran issue. Qatar has been known to have a soft spot towards Iran towards which Saudia has always shown dissatisfaction.

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“The Gulf summit statement talked about a unified Gulf, but where is it amid the continuation of Qatar’s blockade?”, Qatar’s Foreign Minister questioned the facade of a ‘unified Gulf’ amid the continuation of the Saudi-led blockade on Qatar, in an interview to Al-Jazeera on Sunday.

Speaking to Al Jazeera about the emergency summits that had concluded in Mecca on Saturday, the Qatari Foreign Minister  Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani made a few hard-hitting statements about the emergency summits that he described as “Washington’s policy towards Iran and not one that takes the neighborhood into consideration”.

Iran, however, has denied any strategic or financial support to the attacks on Saudi oil assets and has accused Saudi Arabia of making up these blatant assertions.

He argued that the statements made for Iran at the summits were harsh and did not reflect the values of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League at large, which are essentially based on cooperation and diplomacy. Discussing the war-toned statements of the Saudi leadership, Al Thani said: “The statements condemned Iran but did not refer to a moderate policy to speak with Tehran,”

He further went on to question the call for unity of the Gulf region against Iran at the summit saying, “The Gulf summit statement talked about a unified Gulf, but where is it amid the continuation of Qatar’s blockade?”

The two-day emergency meetings and the 14th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation hosted by Saudi Arabia in Mecca last week were primarily aimed at discussing the repercussions of the attacks on two of its oil tankers and an attack on its oil installation last month. Saudi Arabia had accused Iran of backing the attacks that Yemeni Houthi rebels took responsibility for.

Read more: Deep rooted mistrust in the Gulf: Qatar’s blockade continues

Iran, however, has denied any strategic or financial support to the attacks on Saudi oil assets and has accused Saudi Arabia of making up these blatant assertions.

Mecca Summits- An Attempt to Isolate Iran?

King Salman of House Al Saud and top premier of Saudi Arabia called out Iran for “naked aggression” that intended to destabilize regional and international security, on the first day of the emergency meetings in Mecca. Further calling for a unified Gulf cooperation, he asserted the need to stand as one against the antagonistic Iranian influence.

Iran while rejecting the statements that were issued at the emergency summits, urged the Muslim world to see the increasing influence of the United States and Israel on Saudi Arabia that had pushed it to form an anti-Iran bloc in the region to “use all means to stop Iran from interfering in other countries’ affairs”.

The Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, the first top Qatari official to enter Saudi airspace to attend the emergency summits in Mecca since quartet blockade in 2017, marked his attendance at the summits in pursuit of mediating between the Gulf states and Iran. However, disappointment clouded Qatari ambitions as the statements pertinent to Iran were pre-drafted and not consulted with any of the member states.

The Mecca summit ignored the important issues in the region, such as the Palestine issue and the war in Libya and Yemen.

Qatari Foreign Minister condemned the statements made by the Gulf and Arab states at the summit against Iran and stated that Qatar had been kept in the dark about the final summit statements. “The statements of the Gulf and Arab summits were ready in advance and we were not consulted on them,” the Qatari FM told Al-Araby, a UK-based broadcaster.

“Qatar has reservations on the Arab and Gulf summits because some of their terms are contrary to Doha’s foreign policy,” he added further. His statement to Al-Araby confirmed Qatar’s intentions to join the summit as a mediator and not to instigate the conflict further or to support it. “We hoped the Mecca summits would lay the groundwork for a dialogue to reduce tensions with Iran,”, he said in a tweet endorsed by the foreign ministry’s official Twitter account.

Read more: Saudi-led blockade on Qatar not ending anytime soon

Furthermore, another reservation Qatar had from the summits, OIC summit, in particular, was based on the agenda of the meeting that blatantly ignored and sidelined the grave violations of human rights in Yemen, Libya. and Palestine. Stating: “The Mecca summit ignored the important issues in the region, such as the Palestine issue and the war in Libya and Yemen.”

Iran-Qatar Alliance to Further Strengthen?

Qatar’s presence at the emergency meetings in Mecca reflected its resolve to seek a solution to the on-going crisis with its Gulf neighbors and more importantly, to help resolve the issues pertaining to the Iran-Gulf crisis. However, it is believed that the Saudi-led blockade on the tiny Gulf state will continue after the Saudi Foreign Minister, Ibrahim al Assaf in a statement during the summits stated that the Kingdom could only resolve the gulf-crisis if Qatar returns to the “right path”.

Hence reflecting a persistent and rigid Saudi attitude that Qatar is highly unlikely to accept as it moves towards an autonomous economic and political leadership role in the region and abroad.

Read more: Saudi Arabia lambasts Iran for aggression as Qatar works for de-escalation

It is now expected that the Foreign ministers of Qatar and Iran will meet in a bilateral arrangement to discuss the increasing volatile dominance of the Saudi regime in the Gulf and ways to counter-tackle dominance.

Since the 2017 blockade and the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018, both states have increased their engagement in economic realms including rerouting Qatar Airways over Iran and increasing its import trade from Iran.

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