Cairo: A year-old dispute, which pits an Arab quartet against Qatar, is set to drag on further, as Doha has failed to mend its ways, analysts have said.
“The crisis will continue for a longer time as neither side has shown a sign of backdown,” Emad Jad, an expert at the Cairo-based Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said.
In June last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke off diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its support for terrorism, a charge that Doha has denied.
The four countries presented to Qatar a list of demands to end the dispute.
They included stopping support for radical groups, downgrading ties with Iran and shutting down the Doha-based Al Jazeera television network seen as a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood designated as a terrorist organization. Doha rejected the demands, saying they infringed its sovereignty.
Bids by Kuwait and some Western powers including the US to defuse the crisis have failed.
“Foreign powers have their own interests with sides of the crisis. They are unlikely to put pressure for ending it,” Jad told Gulf News.
He added that fallout from the dispute has hit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a grouping that comprises Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.
“The continuation of the crisis erodes the council as it is the most serious crisis this entity has faced since its creation in 1981.”
Leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain stayed away from the GCC summit held last December in Kuwait where Qatari Emir Tamim attended.
As part of the boycott, the anti-Doha quartet banned Qatari Airways from their airspace, forcing the carrier to find alternative longer routes.
The halted flights used to make up around 25 per cent of the Qatari airline’s traffic.
“The boycott is exacting a high cost from Qatar and its foreign currency reserves,” said Jad, who is also a member of the Egyptian parliament.
In April, Qatar’s foreign reserves dropped to 39.7 billion dollars, down by 6.3 billion compared to the same period last year, according to data from the emirate’s central bank.
GCC citizens used to account for half of visitors to Qatar but the ongoing spat has drastically curtailed their trips to the country.
In an attempt to ease the impact of the boycott, Qatar announced last August granting citizens of 80 countries a visa-free entry but the move seems to have had little impact.
The sanctions have taken a political and economic toll on unruly Qatar, according to Mohammad Abdul Qader, another expert at Al Ahram centre.
“The four countries have succeeded in isolating the regime as a result of its support for terrorism,” he said in an article.
Signs of this isolation have unfolded in recent months.
Abdul Qader cited the semi-collective absence of Gulf leaders from the GCC summit in Kuwait, the grouping’s first gathering since the eruption of the dispute.
“The boycott has also succeeded in cutting off Qatar’s terrorist arms in regional hotspots. Doha has lost its partnership in the Arab alliance fighting [Iran-supported rebels] in Yemen. Qatar’s influence has suffered in Palestine after Egypt mediated reconciliation between [Palestinian] movements Fatah and Hamas. Moreover, victory has been declared over Qatar-financed terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq. Qatar has also been paralyzed in Libya where the national army has made a series of military success.”
Abdul Qader added that a flurry of trips by Qatari officials around the world have failed to dent the boycott of their emirate.
”Doha has failed to gain any regional or international sympathy.”
Qatar is also expected to suffer as a result of a recent US decision to pull out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, an ally of Doha.
“The US withdrawal means imposing economic sanctions against Iran, on which Qatar mainly relies for covering its local market needs,” said Salah Al Hadi, a political expert. Last November, Qatar signed with Iran and Turkey an accord to facilitate trade among them. Turkey has deployed troops to Qatar.
“Qatar continues to be arrogant although the crisis with its neighbours has cost it a lot in political and economic terms. It has spent billions of dollars in the West in order to improve its image and buy support, but for no good. Its regional and international influence has been weakened.” Al Hadi told Gulf News.
“The ball is in Qatar’s court,” he argued. “The Qatari leadership knows exactly what it should do in order to achieve reconciliation. If not, the crisis will remain unresolved.”