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Qatar squanders yet another chance of rapprochement

Analysts condemn Doha’s naive attempts to save face by publishing false media reports

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Qatar is caving under massive political, economic and social pressures to break the stalemate in the simmering crisis with four Arab nations, but analysts say it has squandered many opportunities because it is trying to “save face”.

“Qatar has acted to break the deadlock and find a solution to the simmering crisis under colossal political, economic and social pressures, but its face-saving attempts wasted the opportunity,” Dr Mohammad Bin Huwaiden, professor of international relations and political science at the UAE University, told Gulf News.

Everything you need to know about Qatar Crisis

Dr Bin Huwaiden said Qatar has deeply felt the sting from more than three months of economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt.

It has also experienced economic and social isolation and pressure from the US and Kuwait, he added.

“Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah said that Qatar had accepted the Arab quartet’s demands after talks with the US president in the White House on Thursday and the US President Trump was firm and warned that Qatari funding of terrorism had to end,” Dr Bin Huwaiden said.

Optimism after Qatar Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani’s telephone call to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz expressing his desire to sit down and address the crisis was crushed by “Doha’s naive attempts to save face by publishing false media reports that Saudi Arabia initiated the dialogue”.

The Arab quartet did not believe Qatar was sincere in its expressed interest to address the crisis, and Dr Bin Huwaiden attributes this to the “bitter experience Doha’s failure to fulfil commitments that it promised in both the 2013 and 2014 accords”.

“The Arab quartet was positive and open to the Qatari move,” Dr Bin Huwaiden said citing the phone call between Qatar’s emir and the Saudi Crown Prince and Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs’ initial optimism over the talks.

He predicted to see Qatar resume its “aggressive media campaign targeting Saudis and Emiratis”.

“It is a regrettable approach because it ignores the main problem,” Dr Gargash tweeted on Saturday.

Later, Saudi Arabia said that talks with Qatar have been suspended and accused Doha of issuing “false reports”, just after the Emir of Qatar called Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince in an effort to initiate dialogue to resolve the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stalemate.

The emir of Qatar called Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on Friday to “express his desire to sit at the dialogue table to discuss the demands of the four countries to ensure the interests of all”, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency reported.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that the crown prince “welcomed Shaikh Tamim’s desire” and will “announce the details after talks with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt”.

The move comes after Kuwait’s emir, who has been leading mediation efforts to resolve the row, met with Trump in Washington on Thursday. Their meeting was followed by a phone call between Trump and the Qatari emir.

Mohammad Al Hammadi, editor-in-chief of the Arabi daily Al Etihad, also described Qatar’s behaviour as “naive”.

“Clearly, Doha was pushed to initiate dialogue by the United States and maybe Kuwait,” Al Hammadi told Gulf News.

“It wanted to send a message to the world that it did what was demanded of them, but they unfortunately distorted facts to save face.”

Al Hammadi added that Qatar was not serious about resolving the crisis adding that the problem probably lies in the fact that the Qatari emir is not fully in charge and his decisions are being “hijacked” by others.

The ongoing dispute involving Qatar and a coalition of countries including three of its fellow GCC neighbours Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain as well as some other mostly Arab nations including Egypt resulted in a series of measures such as severing diplomatic relations, closing land, sea and air links, and expelling Qatari nationals from their countries.

Sami Al Reyami, editor-in-chief of Arabic daily Emarat Al Youm, wrote in a column on Sunday where he assured Qatar’s leaders that resolving the issue is not a “humiliation” for Qatar and warned that any portrayal as such is simply an “attempt by opportunists to keep Doha out of the GCC fold”.

He said if Qatar met the 13 demands, its GCC neighbours would welcome it back without hesitation or bad feelings.