Arab reconciliation waits Qatari response
Haitham Nouri, , Monday 9 Dec 2019

Arabian Gulf leaders are gathering in the Saudi capital Riyadh to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) 40th summit, which is expected to issue “constructive resolutions reinforcing Gulf cohesion, deepening interdependence, cooperation and integration among member states and entrenching the bases of this blessed council,” according to GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani.

The Gulf summit, the third since the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain) boycotted Qatar in June 2017, comes amid leaks and statements suggesting that a resolution to the crisis with Doha is close.

The reports started with a tweet by Emirati Political Science professor Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, who said, “I bear good news for you that important developments are underway in resolving the Gulf dispute sooner than you expect.”

Al-Bayan newspaper’s Emirati writer Noura Al-Mutairi has said that Abdulla’s words have turned into a “campaign” for “Gulf reconciliation.”

Abdulla’s statements coincide with the publishing of his book ‘The Gulf’s Moment in Contemporary Arab History: How Six States became the Arab Centre of Gravity,’ which he describes as “a study of an objective reality; it isn’t just a call for unity as some view it.”

Some Twitter users have criticised the book for displaying “Gulf arrogance” towards other Arabs, which Abdulla dismisses in a number of passages in his book, saying it is a “descriptive piece of research of the Arab reality.” Abdulla is described by AFP as "influential in the Emirati foreign policy.”

Abdulla did not disclose to Ahram Online whether reconciliation would include Egypt or will merely be a Gulf reconciliation.

Many believe that a Gulf reconciliation would be “sidestepping” Egypt and would involve accepting Doha without any concessions, for its relations with Turkey and Iran are still strong and Al-Jazeera news channel is continuing with an editorial policy that is condemned by the Quartet states.

Abdulla is not alone in suggesting that a resolution is at hand. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said during the Mediterranean Dialogue Forum in Rome that there are “talks with brothers in Saudi Arabia and we hope that they will lead to some progress.”

"There are some talks that have taken place, specifically with Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We hope these talks will lead to progress where we can see an end to the crisis.”

The Qatari minister added in his speech, which was aired by the Qatari satellite channel Al-Jazeera, “We have moved from an impasse in the Gulf crisis to talks about a future vision regarding the relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

“There is no longer talk about the 13 impossible demands [on Doha]. Negotiations are moving away from them," Bloomberg quoted the foreign minister as saying.

In June 2017, the Arab quartet cut off diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its alleged support of extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The four countries have repeatedly demanded that Doha comply with a set of conditions to end the standoff, including Qatar severing links with militant and terror groups, scaling down its ties with Iran and shutting down Al-Jazeera TV, which is considered a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood

Qatar has refused the conditions, saying they violate its sovereignty.

Turki Al-Hamad, Saudi Political Science professor and novelist, said, “We can’t take the Qatari foreign minister’s statements seriously, since last year he said there would be reconciliation.”

The Qatari minster said in an interview with the Financial Times last December, “There is no progress yet regarding the blockade, and any gesture towards reconciliation has to come from the blockading states, in particular from Saudi Arabia.”

These statements were preceded by the Football Federations in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain refusing to participate in the Arabian Gulf Cup tournament in Qatar.

Abdulla said, “This is a political decision as well as a sports one.”

However, Al-Hamad, a fierce critic of Qatar, has a different opinion. “It true that there are indicators of resolving the crisis, but Qatar does not want to forsake the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“Qatar’s return would be welcome, but we should be cautious, and a wise man should not be bitten by the same snake twice,” he said.

Al-Hamad explained Qatar’s position by saying, “Iran is overwhelmed by its internal problems and mired in the Iraqi and Lebanese swamp. As for Turkey, it is collapsing economically and searching for continuous economic support that doesn’t come except from Qatar. These are the wings on which Qatar flies. So, Qatar finds itself obliged to return to the Gulf sphere.”

He added that Doha may “tactically” forsake the MB, which he described as its “hidden strike force.”

“It is a form of lurking until the conditions are right for a return to its former stance, as long as the money and the regime are present.”

Now, everyone is awaiting Doha’s reply. Qatar’s Emir was invited several times to the three previous Mecca summits, but he sent his prime minister as his representative.

Qatar's Emir left Doha for Rwanda on Monday to attend the fourth edition of the International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award.