Kuwait steps up efforts to mediate in Gulf monarchies’ worst crisis
KUWAIT’S ruler is stepping up his efforts to resolve one of the worst crises among Gulf Arab monarchies, a day after Saudi Arabia and its allies isolated Qatar by cutting off air and sea transport and closing the small nation’s only land border.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah will travel to Saudi Arabia to mediate an end to the feud, according to a Gulf government official with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Sheikh Sabah also spoke with Qatar’s ruler and urged him to avoid any escalation, Kuwaiti state-run media reported.
The crisis pits US allies against each other, disrupting trade, flights and business activity in one of the world’s most strategically important regions. The Saudi-led action has prompted some analysts to openly speculate about the possibility of a regime change in Qatar, the No 1 exporter of liquefied natural gas, whose sovereign wealth fund with stakes in global companies from Barclays to Credit Suisse Group.
The moves are aimed at “forcing a complete change in Qatari policy or creating an environment for leadership change in Doha,” Ayham Kamel and Hani Sabra, analysts at New York-based risk analyst Eurasia Group, said. “Saudi Arabia and its allies will not accept any solution short of capitulation.”
Saudi Arabia and three regional allies – the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain – accused their fellow Gulf Co-operation Council member of supporting a range of violent groups, from proxies of Shiite Muslim Iran to the Sunni militants of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
They suspended flights and sea travel to Qatar and ordered Qatari diplomats and citizens out. Thousands of trucks carrying food across Saudi Arabia’s land border with Qatar were stopped on Monday, the Riyadh-based Al Eqtisadiah newspaper reported.
The escalation hammered Qatari stocks on Monday, with the benchmark QE Index falling the most since 2009. They were little changed in early trade yesterday.
Qatar dismissed the charges as baseless, and said the Saudis are seeking to dominate the region. Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani delayed a speech to the nation on Monday to allow Kuwaiti efforts a chance to succeed, Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Thani told Al Jazeera television.
“Qatar will not take measures to escalate, because Qatar thinks that such disagreements between GCC states or between brotherly and friendly states must be resolved through dialogue,” he said. The Qatari ruler “considers Sheikh Sabah as his father,” he said. – Bloomberg