There is still a long way to go regarding settling the Qatar row, but amid all the brouhaha a new political atmosphere seems to be emerging.
The recent visit of the Kuwait Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah to Washington where he met US President Donald Trump may be seen as a good omen to end the dispute between the anti-terror alliance and Qatar. The visit augurs well as Shaikh Sabah gave the impression that Doha wants to talk, a view firmly supported by Trump who repeated that Washington wholeheartedly supports Kuwaiti mediation and the US is willing to have its own initiative to end the Qatar-Gulf stalemate.
This is indeed a new drive forward. There is now a more conciliatory tone that is being brought forth with Shaikh Sabah stating that Qatar is more open to negotiations on the 13 principles which the quartet wants it to adopt. It can be safely suggested that for the first time since the dispute began, all parties — not least of all Qatar which is under a whole host of economic restraints — now appear to be looking for a diplomatic solution and a way out to end the crisis.
The new developments may herald the beginning of a new chapter in the Middle East despite the fact that the quartet is continuing to keep a certain amount of diplomatic pressure on Doha, with its members vaguely agreeing to sit down with Qatar while maintaining a hard conditional line on the 13 points that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt spelt out in June.
Amid the stand-off, hectic parleys are on. What is interesting this time around US is actively backing a diplomatic initiative and looking at a solution to bring the Gulf house together. With bigger strategic issues at hand, including the global fight against terrorism and curbing the influence of Iran, one should expect some outcome in this direction
Pertinently Trump believes that a solution is within reach and has boasted that if America increases its involvement, an end to the stand-off would be imminent. To this many could be privately saying “please try”. Although the anti-terror alliance has been making overtures to Qatar regarding a diplomatic dialogue apart from extending friendly gestures (like facilitating transport to Qatari Hajis to perform their pilgrimage with ease through the Saudi border entry and exit points) agreements have so far proved to be elusive, within reach, but giving way at the last minute. The recent political development via the Kuwaiti mediation (and through Washington) could hold the key.
Despite the touch-and-go, the carrot-and-the-stick approach and whatever unease both sides might have about the conditions for sitting together, it is up to Kuwait to capitalise on the diplomatic momentum (given the fact that the Americans, Europeans and even the Russians are keen to see an outcome to the imbroglio).
Many analysts believe that despite the fall out of the recent telephone conversation between the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and the Qatar Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, it still presents a fresh start for the two sides to iron out differences and restore the “Gulf house” back to full working order. There is yet a long way to go, grievances that need to be addressed and issues and topics that need to be talked about. But all these can be solved if the parties start talking in right earnest.
A confidence-building measure may have already been given, not so much for the benefit of the quartet who already said they are not interested in a military solution but for the benefit of the economies of the region, global investors and the oil situation in the region. A military option is the last thing the region wants. It is only prudent that long-time partners, brothers and extended kin come together and strengthen the bonds of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Marwan Asmar is a commentator based in Amman. He has long worked in journalism and has a PhD in Political Science from Leeds University in the UK.