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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Qatar’s foreign minister: There are no concessions for anyone, and no pressure on Al Jazeera.
Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, signing GCC summit documents in the Saudi city of Al-Ula, January 5, 2021. (AFP)
DOHA – Gulf political sources see in the continued targeting of the UAE by Qatari Al-Jazeera channel an indication of Doha’s agenda in dealing with the four boycotting countries.
This agenda seems based on different criteria unbound by the commitments that Qatar has made regarding the confidence-building measures stipulated in the reconciliation agreement.
The sources said that the Qatari channel continued to attack the UAE and its role in Yemen, specifically, hence reinforcing speculation about Doha’s lack if interest in changing its attitude towards the main issues of disagreement, especially towards the Yemeni file, which the sources describe as the most difficult test for Doha’s serious intent about Gulf reconciliation.
Followers of Gulf affairs have raised questions about Doha’s commitment to the essence of reconciliation as it does not seem intent on implementing the first clause, which requires it to stop incitement in the media channels its owns, such as Al Jazeera.
Some of the channel’s reporters did not stop assailing the leaders of the four boycotting countries even during the presence of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani at the Al-Ula summit in Saudi Arabia.
Observers were surprised by Al-Jazeera’s re-broadcast of a report which distorts the UAE’s role in backing the joint resistance forces on the western coast of Yemen. The channel tried instead to show this role as driven by a hidden agenda even if in reality it is part of the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s effort to confront Iranian designs.
Al-Jazeera’s broadcast of this program on its social media accounts, before removing it and then re-broadcasting again, hence reflecting a state of confusion in Qatar’s media system and Doha’s lack of adherence to the new transformations required by Gulf reconciliation.
Some observers did not rule out that this media escalation could be intended to convey a message according to which Doha is not committed to changing its editorial line towards the boycotting countries.
Commenting on the Qatari media’s continued attacks on the UAE, Kuwaiti political researcher and head of the Gulf Forum for Security and Peace, Fahd Alshelaimi, referred to what he called “the big fall of Al-Jazeera, just one day after the success of the 41st Gulf Summit in Al-Ula.”
Shulaimi said on Twitter that “Al-Jazeera violates the Al-Ula statement and the Gulf Cooperation Council’s statement through false and toxic information,” as it “attacks the Emirati role in liberating the southern provinces of Yemen.”
Journalist Jamal Al-Harbi wrote, “We were hoping that ink would dry up in the Al-Ula Agreement before Qatar pointed its media weapons towards us! Does anyone think this is the behaviour of a country that desires reconciliation?”
While the Qatar media machine stopped attacking Saudi Arabia after the warm welcome extended to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the summit, Qatari media continued to broadcast material that is hostile to Egypt and the UAE.
Gulf sources see it likely that Doha would play in the coming period on multiple tracks seeking rapprochement with Riyadh while marginalising Cairo, ignoring Manama and engaging in a single confrontation with Abu Dhabi. This policy seems aimed primarily at sowing disunity in the ranks of the Arab quartet alliance, which was able to contain its destructive activities in the region.
Doha seeks to appear as the victor in a battle against the four boycotting countries, in the absence of any information about the nature of the commitments it has made. Qatari officials denied that among these commitments was the closure of Al-Jazeera or introducing any changes in their relationship with Turkey and Iran.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said in an interview with the Financial Times that his country will not alter its relations with Iran and Turkey, and that it has not made concessions to anyone.
He stressed that there will be no change with regard to Al Jazeera, which suggests that Qatar wants to take only what it sees as gains from the summit but will not put in place any controls or safeguards to de-escalate conflicts with the countries concerned.
Political sources believe the next few days will show the extent of Qatar’s commitment to the provisions of reconciliation and test its seriousness about stopping political and media escalation and freezing its direct and indirect support for radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Houthi militias in Yemen.
Over the past years, Doha has dealt with the Yemeni file separately, taking its distance from the common vision of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It all started with the Qatari mediation between the government and the Houthis in 2007 and the accompanying talk about Doha’s involvement in supporting the Houthis financially, logistically and in the media.
Qatar withdrew from the Gulf initiative under which there was a transfer of power in Yemen from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, after indications of Qatari support at the time for the continuation of the protests that were threatening Yemen with civil war.
The Qatari role in Yemen escalated after the end of Doha’s participation in the coalition in 2017, as Doha worked, according to Yemeni observers, to fuel division within the “legitimacy” government, diverting the conflict’s direction towards other anti-Houthi factions, and supporting the creation of militias affiliated with the Brotherhood, in addition to its role in backing the Houthis, politically, financially, in the media and in terms of logistics.
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