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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

A year on, the quartet stands firm against Doha aggression 

Qatar's pursuit of isolationism will make its own people suffer

It is a year since the Arab quartet of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
It is a year since the Arab quartet of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

Exactly a year ago today, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt simultaneously severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over its funding of international terrorism. Today, the Arab quartet remains steadfast amid Doha's flagrant disregard for the stability and interests of its regional neighbours. While initial hopes might have been that matters would be resolved within weeks or months, that illusion quickly dissipated as the gravity and scale of the latest in a series of incidents became apparent. No attempt has been made to meet the quartet’s 13 demands, which included severing ties with Iran and withdrawing support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The quartet has expressed a willingness to restore relations under the right circumstances but it will stand firm against Qatar’s unwillingness to heed its concerns. Qatar was clearly unprepared for the patient resolve of its neighbours.

The boycott's aim has always been to hold Qatar's leadership to account for its actions, not punish ordinary Qataris, many of whom share much in common with their neighbours. Indeed, Doha’s intransigence is causing its people to suffer most, whether from rising prices for their goods or fewer routes on which to travel. International companies and professionals are leaving in droves, as Qatar looks increasingly isolated. Qatar Airways made a “substantial” loss in its last financial year, its chief executive admitted last month. As UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said last week: "The basic lesson learnt is the dominance of an impossible political ambition over the public interest."

Over the past year, much of Doha’s reckless behaviour has been laid bare. Senior members of the Qatari government were photographed at the wedding of the son of Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi, labelled a leading financer of terror by the US and UN. Qatari jets have flown alongside UAE civilian planes in five shameful acts of intimidation. Doha has stepped up its campaign of misinformation and fake news to discredit its neighbours while the contentious decision to award Qatar the 2022 Fifa World Cup has become a full-blown bribery and corruption scandal. And last month 70 Iranian officials and businessmen travelled to Doha to reaffirm bilateral co-operation. This is not the behaviour of a country intent on mending its ways.

And yet a year in, the future looks daunting for Qatar, which cannot hope for the boycott to be eased unless it significantly amends its behaviour. In that time, there have been positive signs it is taking effect. For instance, Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed said terrorist activities in his country have decreased since it began. Doha’s persistence in perpetuating the crisis with its stubbornness and isolationism will mean that in the end, it is the people of Qatar who will suffer.