GCC crisis enters third week with no end in sight

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Lhems Anso/Flickr

Qatar will not negotiate with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE until the countries lift their boycott on the country, its foreign minister has said.

“Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters in Doha yesterday, according to Al Jazeera.

Al Thani clarified that Qatar is only willing to discuss issues pertaining to the GCC, via Kuwait as a mediator.

“Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs.
Al Jazeera is Qatar’s affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar’s affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs,” he said.

Years-long isolation

However, Qatar’s Gulf neighbors don’t seem receptive to the idea of lifting their air, sea and land closures anytime soon.

Yesterday, an Emirati official warned that isolation of Qatar could stretch into years unless authorities meet their demands.

Anwar Gargash, UAE’s minister for state of foreign affairs, speaking at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Feb. 2017. Credit: UN Geneva/Flickr

State minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said Qatar’s rivals were “betting on time,” but added that the nation must dismantle its “sophisticated podium for jihadism and Islamic extremism” before the boycott ends.

So far, no official list of grievances against Qatar has been sent to Doha, but one is expected to be forthcoming.

Grievances

The main points of contention appear to be the country’s relationship with different political groups, including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood; its perceived closeness to Iran and its alleged support of terrorism.

Qatar has denied any links to terrorist groups and its former prime minister told Charlie Rose last week that the idea of the government “Supporting Iran is a big joke.”

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Chantelle D’mello/Doha News

And Qatar’s ambassador to the US pointed out in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this week that the UN lists “10 times as many suspected terrorists and terrorist financiers from the boycotting countries than from Qatar.”

Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani added:

“It has become clear that the current campaign against Qatar is not about terrorism, Al Jazeera or any of the other issues highlighted by the boycotting nations.
It is about Qatar’s independence, which some apparently view as a threat. We would like our brothers in the GCC to know that we are a threat to no one. But they should also understand that Qatar is a sovereign nation, and that we will not be bullied.”

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