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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Qatar crisis is 'a battle for the future of the Middle East', says ex-ambassador

British MPs told that American intervention is key to solving dispute

U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson wrapped up his first foray in shuttle diplomacy on Thursday with little sign of progress in breaking a deadlock between Qatar and four Arab neighbours(Trevor T. McBride/U.S. State Department via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson wrapped up his first foray in shuttle diplomacy on Thursday with little sign of progress in breaking a deadlock between Qatar and four Arab neighbours(Trevor T. McBride/U.S. State Department via AP)

Conservative MPs were told that American intervention and support is the key to resolving the greatest challenge the GCC faces in the Qatar crisis at high level briefing in Westminster Hall this week.

Sir William Patey, the former British ambassador to Riyadh and Baghdad, told the packed room of government ministers and backbenchers that the Qatar defiance of the GCC would be a defining struggle for the “future look of the Middle East”.

The meeting chaired by Charlotte Leslie, the new head of the Conservative Middle East Council, convened the gathering amid an intense round of diplomatic consultations in the British capital over the boycott of Doha over its support for terror organisations.

Sir William warned that if there is not a change in Qatar’s behaviour “we may have seen the end of the GCC”. He added that the prospect was that Qatar would move towards deeper ties with Iran and Turkey as well as increase political activities beyond its borders. The competing visions for the region were at stake. “This is about the Muslim Brotherhood,” he added. “It’s a battle for the future of the Middle East.”

There was broad agreement, including from Sir William, that the US was the key mediator in the dispute. Michael Stephens, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, said that the crisis could be protracted as Qatar has to prove that it had cut ties with terrorist organisation.

Hassan al-Hassan, a former adviser to the court of Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, another panellist told the MPs that Boris Johnson was playing a role in diplomatic efforts and had displayed a principled approach based on combating terrorism. Hassan said the US treasury had the experience and the skills to monitor Qatar’s finances to ensure that it kept its commitments should a diplomatic breakthrough emerge. After a week of mediation, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, returned to Washington last week after Qatar held out against pleas for conciliation.

The meeting came just days after Mr Johnson visited the region to send a message that “expressed anxiety regarding the continuing crisis in the region as he called on all sides involved to contain the stalemate and hastily resolve the matter through dialogue”.

The former foreign office minister Sir Hugo Swire, the chairman of the Conservative council, also participated in the meeting.

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