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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Gargash says Qatar’s behaviour threatens stability in the Gulf

Dr Anwar Gargash’, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, comments come after a split within the Arab Gulf countries once again erupted over Qatar’s relationship with Islamist groups and Tehran.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that the GCC was facing a 'severe crisis'. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that the GCC was facing a 'severe crisis'. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Abu Dhabi // The GCC is going through a severe crisis that poses a grave danger to security and stability in the Gulf, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.

Dr Anwar Gargash’s comments come after a split within the Arab Gulf countries once again erupted over Qatar’s relationship with Islamist groups in the region and pressure on Doha to fall in line on confronting and containing Tehran.

“Warding off the discord will require a change in behaviour ... and a regain in credibility,” Dr Gargash tweeted, in a clear reference to Qatar.

“Solving a crisis between a brother and his siblings is achieved through honesty and commitment to pledges and intentions,” he said.

The minister added that “stability lies in unity” and, at a time of so many regional crises and threats, “patience and tolerance have their limits.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE were outraged after Qatar’s state media published comments from the emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani critical of US and GCC policy towards Iran.

Qatar said the remarks, published late on Tuesday, were fake and that the state news agency that ran them had been hacked.

Facing the prospect of mounting pressure by the US and its regional partners, Iranian officials are seeking to capitalise on the fissures among the Arab Gulf states.

Newly re-elected president Hassan Rouhani spoke with Qatar’s emir on Friday and the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei marked the advent of Ramadan by launching a rhetorical attack on Saudi Arabia, saying that the kingdom was being “milked” by Donald Trump.

The virulent comments come after the US president and King Salman agreed to arms deals worth up to $110 billion (Dh403bn) at a summit on May 20 in Riyadh. The kingdom also pledged to invest $20 billion in upgrading and building new US infrastructure, a signature domestic goal for Mr Trump.

In another sign of deteriorating relations with Qatar, descendants of the founding father of Wahhabi Islam sought to distance themselves from Qatar’s ruling family.

Some 200 descendants of Ibn Abd Al Wahhab demanded the renaming of a Qatari mosque named after the 18th-century cleric, Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper reported.

Qatar’s state mosque is known as the Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abd Al Wahhab mosque.

“We, therefore, demand that the name of the mosque be changed for it does not carry its true Salafi path,” the statement said.

In 2014, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi withdrew their ambassadors from Doha over Qatar’s support for Islamist groups, but the diplomatic spat ended – or became dormant – less than a year later with the ascension of King Salman.

The Saudi monarch reportedly prioritised a united front among GCC and other Arab allies against Iran.

But with the dramatic reset in the tenor of relations with Washington, countering Islamist groups, realigning with the new US administration on Iran, and assisting Washington in its latest bid to broker a Israel-Palestine peace deal are now priorities for both Saudi and the UAE.

That leaves little room among the three countries for ambiguity in Doha’s positions.

But a complete falling in line seems unlikely, as its ties to Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas is key to Doha’s strategic posture.

It has a major shared interest with Iran in the world’s largest gasfield and while wary of Tehran, and even engaged in proxy war with it in Syria, does not want to risk a serious direct confrontation.

Other GCC countries will also be watching warily. Kuwait’s foreign minister met with Sheikh Tamim over the weekend to try to defuse the situation through dialogue.

tkhan@thenational.ae

* With reporting from Reuters

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