Amir expresses bitterness, concern over Gulf crisis
Qatar, US ink counterterror deal Quartet, US FMs to meet
HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah AlAhmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday expressed “bitterness” and is “extremely concerned” over “unprecedented developments” in the Gulf crisis. The Amir appreciates the positive reactions and messages of support of Kuwait’s mediation efforts regarding the stalemate, displayed by Kuwaiti nationals, Gulf states and the international community, read an Amiri Diwan statement.
These expressions of support have “relieved” him from the resulting pain and “increased our determination” to resolve the matter, said HH the Amir, who is leading mediation efforts in the crisis involving several Arab countries. The Amir warned that the Gulf Cooperation Council’s accomplishments, based on the aspirations of its people, “cannot be compromised, and should be maintained and adhered to”. “We will not surrender our historic responsibilities (towards the bloc) and we will be loyal to it until we overcome these developments,” he underlined, stressing that the related parties themselves can only resolve this crisis.
Meanwhile, Qatar and the United States signed a deal yesterday on combatting “terrorism” as visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pursued efforts to resolve the Gulf diplomatic crisis. In Qatar as part of a series of Gulf meetings, Tillerson also said Doha had been “reasonable” in the dispute, which has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with the emirate over accusations it supports extremism.
Tillerson is spending much of this week in the Gulf seeking to mediate in the rift among crucial US allies, and will meet foreign ministers of the four countries isolating Qatar in the Saudi city of Jeddah today. After talks with senior officials in Doha yeterday, Tillerson and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani announced the deal targeting extremist financing. “The memorandum lays out a series of steps the two countries will take over the coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counter-terrorism activities globally, ”Tillerson said at a joint press conference.
He said the deal meant Qatar was “the first to respond” to US President Donald Trump’s call at a summit in Riyadh earlier this year “to stop the funding of terrorism” - suggesting that such deals could be signed with the other Arab states as a step towards ending the crisis. Referring to its rivals, Sheikh Mohammed urged “the siege countries to join us in the future” by signing on to such deals.
While the State Department has warned the crisis could last months, Tillerson yesterday struck a moderately optimistic note. “I’m hopeful we can make some progress to bring this to a point of resolution,” he said after meeting Qatar’s emir. “I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions and I think very reasonable and we want to talk now... (about) how do we take things forward.” Tillerson flew back to Kuwait - the main mediator in the crisis and where he is based this week - after the talks in Qatar.
Egypt announced the meeting with Tillerson in Jeddah today, saying it “reflects the four countries’ desire to enhance coordination and underscore their unity on ways to deal with Qatar in the future.” The diplomatic crisis is the worst to hit the region since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981. The four countries on June 5 announced sanctions, effective immediately, against Qatar over accusations Doha supported Islamist extremism and was too close to Iran. They severed all diplomatic ties, suspended transport links with Doha and ordered all Qataris to return home within 14 days. On June 22, the Saudi-led bloc issued a list of 13 demands which, if met, would end the sanctions, including closing broadcast giant Al-Jazeera, downgrading ties to Iran and shutting a Turkish military base in Doha.
Qatar refused to comply and has consistently denied accusations of ties to Islamist groups. Tillerson’s arrival in Doha was overshadowed by the publication of pre-existing confidential agreements between Qatar and other GCC states in which all sides had pledged to combat extremist funding and avoid interference in other states. Publication of the accords, dated 2013 and 2014, caused both sides in the dispute to launch a fresh round of mutual accusations.
US broadcaster CNN aired leaked papers in which Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait - and later Bahrain and the UAE - had signed accords forbidding support for any opposition and hostile groups in their own nations, as well as in Egypt and Yemen. That agreement specifically ruled out support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other unnamed groups that could threaten the bloc’s members. Qatar sees the Brotherhood as a legitimate political force and has for years hosted its spiritual guide, Sheikh Youssef AlQaradawi. That puts it squarely at odds with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which see the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
A joint statement released by the Saudi-led bloc said the documents proved “beyond any doubt Qatar’s failure to meet its commitments and its full violation of its pledges”. Their 13-point list of demands in June was tied to those earlier deals and was “fully in line with the spirit of what was agreed upon,” they said. The head of Qatar’s government communication office, Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed AlThani, disputed that, saying the June demands “bore no relation to the Riyadh agreements”, according to a statement carried by the official Qatar News Agency. He called the “siege” by the four states a violation of the GCC charter and agreements. — Agencies
DOHA: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) meets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the Sea Palace residence yesterday.