On Friday, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in addition to the Sultanate of Oman and Kuwait, confirmed progress in resolving the crisis in the Gulf represented by the boycott of a number of countries in the region to Doha.
US and Gulf officials also revealed that Riyadh and Doha reached a preliminary agreement to end the Gulf crisis, paving the way for broader regional talks that may ease tensions between the two Gulf rivals by the end of the year.
Recent developments raised many questions regarding the reasons that pushed the two parties to sit at the negotiating table again, and who is most in need of reconciliation, and what is the party that initiated the declaration of negotiations.
‘Qatar is most in need’
Mohammed Abdullah Al Zulfa, a former member of the Saudi Shura Council, believes that Qatar is the most in need of Saudi Arabia, due to the fall of Qatar’s allies in regional problems.
“Qatar’s regional allies are now in trouble, and the political Islam that supports it is at stake, and it may soon disappear. The region is changing dramatically, and these changes may not go in favor of Qatar,” Al Zulfa said.
Regarding the position of the rest of the Arab Quartet: the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, Al Zulfa indicated that these countries will not concede their “right” demands and conditions, as he described it.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of “financing terrorism” and standing by Iran, accusations denied by Doha.
Al Zulfa also pointed out that Turkey, which is Qatar’s closest ally, is in a dilemma as a result of the fluctuating economic conditions, adding that “Ankara knows the weight of Riyadh well, and with the arrival of Biden, who has a different vision for Erdogan, it may reconcile with Saudi Arabia, in exchange for giving up the policy of intervention in Arab Countries Affairs. ”
The Saudi political analyst, Sulaiman Al-Aqili, goes in the same direction, who believes that the party most in need of reconciliation is Qatar, for several main reasons.
On top of these reasons, according to Al-Aqili, comes “political isolation. As a result of the boycott, Qatar has become regionally isolated from its Arab neighbors, politically, economically and even socially.”
“Qatar has sought to compensate for this with alliances far from its geographical space and strategic depth,” Al-Aqili added.
The Saudi analyst added, “The second reason is the economic pressure, as the boycott of its neighbors, along with Egypt, caused great economic losses due to the suspension of trade exchange, and the closure of land ports and airspace for aviation.”
As for the third reason, it is Qatar’s endeavor to make the World Cup it will host in 2022 on its soil. According to Al-Aqili, Doha may face “major problems in attracting fans to its stadiums because of the boycott.”
Al-Aqili added that other issues facing Qatar, such as “the weak population size of Qatar, and its inability to present offers to attract the masses of its neighbors, boycotters, especially the Saudi sports fans who are passionate about football, as well as the difficulty of transporting fans from distant homes in light of the prevention of airlines from crossing Saudi airspace.”
The fourth reason, according to Al-Aqili, is the exorbitant security costs. “Qatar has paid huge sums to secure the presence of foreign military bases, which contribute to maintaining national security as well as the security of the Qatari regime, in light of exaggerated concerns about external threats.”
In addition to the Al Udeid base that hosts US forces, Doha also hosts Turkish forces on its soil, immediately after the Arab Quartet boycotted it in 2017.
For its part, Qatar supports Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, politically and economically, by supporting Ankara’s position in its recent military interventions, whether in Libya or Syria, in addition to pumping billions into investments.
Pressure on Saudi Arabia
On the other hand, the Qatari academic and political analyst, Majid Al-Ansari, considers that Saudi Arabia is most in need of contact with Qatar.
Al-Ansari added in an interview with Al-Hurra that Saudi Arabia needs to reconcile with Qatar “because it is under more pressure, and Qatar does not have much pressure from Washington. Riyadh, it seems, has more pressure.”
He explained that the US President Donald Trump’s administration wants “to deprive Tehran of the money that comes to it from Qatar’s permission for Iranian planes to fly over its airspace, due to Riyadh’s closure of its airspace.”
The Trump administration is still continuing the policy of imposing sanctions on Iran, which the United States has adopted since May 2018, following America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
The Trump administration is trying to close all financial channels that generate money for Tehran, in order to curb it from its military nuclear program, and to stop supporting the pro-Iranian militias in the region.
Among the financial channels are Iranian airlines, which Washington has already imposed sanctions on in recent months, such as Mahan Air and Maraj Air, which have transported weapons, fighters and money to agents in Syria and Lebanon.
As for the writer and professor of media at Qatar Community College, Ahmed Abdel-Malik, he believes that there is no party more in need of the Gulf reconciliation, describing the recent reconciliation efforts as a “confrontation with the self and a correction of the course.”
Abdul Malik added that the initiating party in this reconciliation is the State of Kuwait, which has pursued the path of reconciliation since the era of the late Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad, who made great efforts in this regard.
Abd al-Malik noted the need to build reconciliation – if it is reached – on solid foundations of respect for states ’sovereignty, non-interference in their internal affairs, and positive interaction that serves the peoples.
And Abdel-Malek added, “What happened in 2017 was a violation of the Gulf constants and the statute of the Cooperation Council, the Arab League Charter, and United Nations charters, and matters must return to normal.”
On the other hand, the researcher in international affairs, Muhammad al-Arabi, believes that both parties need reconciliation, and this is mainly due to the arrival of a new US administration soon.
Al-Arabi told Al-Hurra website, “Because of the development that took place in the United States and the advent of a democratic administration, the two parties need to build a more coherent Gulf position in the next stage, until the nature of the US policy in general in particular, towards the Gulf and also Iran becomes clear.”
“On the other hand, since the beginning of the crisis, the State of Kuwait has expressed that the crisis is not in the interest of the Gulf or the Arab system, and it was more urgent and a need for reconciliation,” Al-Arabi adds.
“In one way or another, the pattern of reconciliation is limited so far, and it is expected that it will include other parties later, such as the UAE or Bahrain, but through separate negotiation processes with Qatar, and not only through the Saudi-Qatari initiative,” the researcher continued.
Al-Arabi concluded his speech with Al-Hurra, saying, “I imagine that the matter will not be done quickly. Rather, it will become clearer which parties will join the reconciliation after the development of the Qatari-Saudi side.”
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