Kuwaiti mediation sees possible breakthrough in Qatar crisis
Increased efforts. The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (R) is received by UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum before talks about Qatar, last June. (WAM)
2017/08/13 Issue: 119 Page: 3
London- Kuwaiti mediators, who appear to be making progress, increased diplomatic efforts to get both sides of the Qatar boycott dispute to agree to face-to-face talks to resolve the row between Qatar and a group of Saudi-led Arab countries.
Gulf sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kuwaiti mediation efforts could lead to Qatar agreeing to direct talks without the lifting of sanctions first, a precondition set by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
This new flexibility was the result of shuttle diplomacy by Kuwait First Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah al-Mubarak, who visited all the countries involved in the dispute and Oman, another Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member, which has remained neutral.
The sources said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want explicit Qatari guarantees, not guarantees from Kuwait or the United States, which has expressed readiness to help. Bahrain, however, has shown more flexibility.
A Saudi official again called out Qatar for its alleged support for extremist groups. Chargé d’Affaires at the Saudi Embassy in Kabul Mishari Alharbi, in an interview on Afghan television, criticised Doha for supporting the Taliban.
“Qatar supports the terrorist groups and it is still providing support for terrorist groups. The Taliban Qatar office is where [terrorist groups] contact their supporters and vice versa. The Taliban has been receiving supplies using the address,” Alharbi said.
He said Qatar was the Taliban’s main lifeline and expressed concern for the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan while pledging Saudi Arabia’s continued support.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rejected Doha’s request to intervene in the dispute, saying the political dimensions of the crisis were outside its domain.
Qatar had asked the ICAO to intervene in June after its GCC neighbours closed their airspace to Qatari flights as part of a sanctions regime.
Bahraini Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed said: “The decisions taken by the [ICAO] confirm the validity of the technical measures adopted by the four concerned countries and affirm the neutrality of the organisation and its adherence to the role for which it was established — to maintain the safety of civil aviation around the world.”
The ICAO’s decision followed reports in the government-controlled Qatari media that the UN body convinced the UAE and Bahrain to open air routes to Qatari planes, reports denied by both countries.
The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said it allowed a Qatari aircraft to use airspace above international waters managed by the UAE, not UAE airspace.
Bahrain’s Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunication said all media reports on Bahrain opening its airspace to Qatar Airways were inaccurate, adding that air routes over international waters had been open for all types of air traffic since June 11.
The crisis broke out after statements attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticising US foreign policy and praising Iran were carried by the official Qatar News Agency.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, saying that Qatar interfered in their countries’ internal affairs and supported radical groups such as Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. A list of 13 demands issued by the quartet must be met for talks with Doha to commence, the boycotting countries said.