Kuwait steps up ef­forts to me­di­ate in Gulf monar­chies’ worst cri­sis

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Fiona MacDon­ald

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.

Com­plete change

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

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