Monday,17 December, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)
Monday,17 December, 2018
Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Negotiations needed

It is not in Iran’s or the region’s interest to try to block mediation efforts between Qatar and the four countries opposing it, writes Camelia Entekhabifard


Negotiations needed
Negotiations needed

On 5 June Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members the UAE and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, which has been accused of supporting terrorist groups and conspiring against the interests of its Arab allies in the GCC.

While Qatar’s alleged ties with Iran have been cited as one of the major issues in this crisis, it seems as if Qatar’s ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and militia groups in the Syrian conflict are the main concerns of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.

Qatar has publicised 13 demands made by these four countries, apparently in an attempt to show the world how unrealistic the demands are, such as closing down the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera. However, when the 13 demands were publicly exposed by Qatar, the move complicated the situation and closed the door on negotiations.

The US has said that policy towards Qatar and the country’s future status in the GCC should be worked out through negotiation, and it has been unhappy about seeing Iran and Turkey quietly taking advantage of the rift between the countries. 

There are fears of Iran’s taking an opportunist approach to the events in a similar way to what it has done in other crises from Syria to Yemen in the past, and these have led to increased Western diplomatic efforts to mediate in the crisis over recent weeks.

Iran’s political leaders have in the past tried to use similar crises for short-term gains, but they have been less successful when it comes to a long-term strategy.

Tehran lacks the foresight and power to unilaterally steer such crises. A good example of this lack has been seen in Iraq after the fall of former Iraqi present Saddam Hussein in 2003, and it has again been seen in the present crisis in Syria in which Iran has spent vast amounts in terms of money and logistical support on the ground, but has reaped only distrust or even hatred from many of those involved.

On 10 July, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went to Kuwait, which has been mediating on behalf of GCC members between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He will next shuttle between Qatar and the Saudi capital to help end the standoff.

Simply put, it is not believed that US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar can continue to fight each other, and there are many reasons to believe that this crisis will end as soon as both sides adopt a softer tone.

Qatar did not publicly reveal its rejection of the demands of the four countries last week, and the Kuwaiti mediator has insisted that the details will not be disclosed to the media. At a press conference in Cairo on 5 July, representatives of the four countries acting against Qatar made a general statement in which the reduction of relations with Iran and the closure of Al-Jazeera were not mentioned.

This diplomatic crisis underscores the necessity of multilateralism in a complex and unpredictable region, and it is beneficial for all, even for Iran, to recognise this need. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif have called for multilateral dialogue on the crisis, though this will not be enough without action.

Rouhani’s administration has not demonstrated how it will contribute to the strengthening of multilateral institutions or whether it will be taking a more active part in the negotiations. However, as soon as the Qatar crisis is over there will be a need for even more difficult talks on Syria to continue, there being an urgent need for regional countries to sit down and discuss matters face to face.

The path to ending the Qatar crisis will not be blocked by Turkey or Iran, and it is necessary in order to achieve the regional stability and security demanded by the international community. The choice is clear to everyone that this crisis cannot continue.

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