Hopes of resolution as Gulf crisis enters 11th week

ANKARA

The crisis in Gulf region that broke out in early June seems to have cooled after many countries, including Turkey, called for dialogue and a diplomatic resolution.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting, inciting and funding terrorism in Arab countries.

The four states imposed a sea, land and air blockade on Qatar and presented a list of demands.

Qatar, a key U.S. ally in the Gulf and the host of one of the largest U.S. military bases in the Middle East, strongly denies the allegations and has described the blockade as a violation of international law.

Doha also says the blockade, if left in place, will hinder the region’s ongoing fight against the Daesh terrorist group.

In the early days of the crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump commented that Qatar had “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level”.

Nevertheless, in mid-June, Washington consented to sell Qatar $12 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets.

At the time, the Pentagon said that the deal would “give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the U.S. and Qatar”.

Military action

At one point, the prospect of Saudi military action against Qatar seemed possible. Asked about the chances of this option being taken, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir replied simply by saying, “I hope not”.

While Trump’s initial rhetoric seemed to ratchet up the pressure on Qatar, the U.S. State Department under Rex Tillerson later appeared to be searching for a de-escalation among its Arab allies.

On June 20, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tillerson had made more than 20 phone calls since the row began on June 5 and urged an easing of the blockade during a visit to the region, citing potential harm to the U.S.-led anti-Daesh alliance.

Dialogue

In late June, foreign ministers of the four blockading countries met in Bahrain’s capital Manama and issued a call for “conditioned dialogue”.

“The four are ready for dialogue with Qatar with the condition that it announces its sincere willingness to stop funding terrorism and extremism and its commitment to not interfere in other countries’ foreign affairs and respond to the 13 demands,” they said in a statement after the meeting.

By mid-July, they were calling on Doha to agree a framework on six broad principles around which future negotiations would be based.

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah, whose government was closely involved in trying to end the crisis, sent messages to the leaders of the four boycott states in a further initiative.

Meanwhile, Saudi King Salman, whose country is the only one to share a land border with Qatar, ordered Saudi companies to resume deliveries. Last week, he ordered the Saudi authorities to allow Hajj pilgrims coming from Qatar into the kingdom, even offering to host them in Mecca at his own expense.

Turkey, a longstanding ally of Qatar, has been steadfast in its support of the small peninsular state while appealing to the four others involved in the confrontation.

Vast amounts of humanitarian aid, as well as troops, were sent to Qatar and joint military exercises were conducted as the parliament in Ankara rushed through military cooperation agreements.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, military head Gen. Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan to the Gulf in late July.

Meetings with King Salman and Sheikh Sabah and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani focused on “resolving the crisis through dialogue and diplomacy,” Erdogan said on his return to Turkey.

Source: Anadolu Agency