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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Too many false flags flutter over Qatar

Doha tries new distraction tactic by filing legal complaint with the WTO

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, hand over a letter from Qatar's emir rejecting demands put to them by the Arab quartet, to the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, in Kuwait. EPA.
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, hand over a letter from Qatar's emir rejecting demands put to them by the Arab quartet, to the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, in Kuwait. EPA.

The two-speed nature of the Qatar crisis has been one of the more pronounced characteristics of a dispute that has rumbled on since early June.

On the one side, the quartet of nations – Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – have consistently demonstrated quick thinking, clear logic and a firm grasp of diplomatic reality.

On Sunday, for instance, the quartet’s statements in Manama reiterated that there was no siege of Doha, despite what those on the peninsula would have some believe, and that there was a way out for Sheikh Tamim and his country. If Qatar stopped supporting terrorism and committed to dialogue, then negotiation would lead to a settlement. At stake, according to one comment from the quartet, is “the future of the Middle East”, which, as statements go, cuts quickly to the heart of this regional dispute.

Compare this to the leaden-footed response from Doha. Too vague in its pronouncements, too inconsistent in its policy making and too prone to prevarication. Late last month, Qatar said it would amend its anti-terror legislation and its emir talked of correcting “our error”, but he has done little since to suggest that this was any more than applying a small sticking plaster to a gaping wound. The quartet waits for some commitment from Doha that it is willing to tread a more constructive path.

Then, on Monday, Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, appeared to anticipate Doha’s next move when he said: “Qatar talks about everything, except for halting terror funding... and interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.”

And, sure enough, Qatar has been talking again.

As The National reported, Qatar has filed a complaint at the World Trade Organisation to challenge the sanctions imposed by members of the quartet. Instead of seeking out its neighbours, Doha has sought to put a regional dispute on the international stage. Instead of addressing the issue of funding terrorism and extremism, Qatar has sought to cloud these matters under the fog of a supposed trade dispute. Instead of starting constructive negotiations, Ali Alwaleed Al Thani, the director of Qatar’s WTO office, has vaguely called for “more information on these measures, the legality of these measures.”

Previously, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, had suggested that the UN was the “right place” to seek a solution and review “possible options”. But the UN of course was the wrong forum to debate the issues and the UN Security Council rejected Doha’s efforts to involve it. The sanctions are not predicated on the virtues of free trade so the WTO is also the wrong forum.

Far too many false flags continue to flutter all over Doha. It is time for them to be stood down. It is also time for Qatar to stop turning away from the region and start talking to the Gulf. All the solutions can be found here.