Gulf crisis can be solved through dialogue, analyst says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2017 10:21 PM

MANILA - The crisis in the Gulf region can be resolved through dialogue that the United States can help facilitate, an analyst said Monday.

While Qatar, a natural gas-rich nation, can survive the isolation enforced by its neighbors economically for months or a few years, Dr. Jamal Abdullah, an academic visitor at the Middle East Centre of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, said the crisis may not last that long.

"I still believe that the state of Qatar as well as other Gulf states, they are from the same family because they have same religion, same language, same culture. They are like a brother and sister, so I believe that they will find a way out of this crisis," he told ANC's Early Edition.

"They need to just discuss, they need to sit down at a round table and start this kind of negotiation and dialogue," he added.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar last month, accusing it of backing terrorism. Doha has denied the allegations.

Abdullah said the crisis is not likely to escalate into a military conflict because apart from the countries' fundamental similarities, an actual battle in the region will likely blow up to a global scale.

He noted that there are several foreign military bases in the different Gulf states--French military bases in Abu Dhabi, American and Turkish military bases in Doha.

"If any military operation starts, it will be very dangerous for all the world, not just the region. So I don’t believe that it will happen now," he said.

Abdullah also said that while the 5 states can seek Qatar's exclusion from the Gulf Cooperation Council, Kuwait and Oman are likely to block it.

"Kuwait now play now the role of mediator and I don’t think that Oman and Kuwait will accept that Qatar be excluded from this GCC...I think that Kuwait and Oman think about themselves. If Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, successfully isolate Qatar now, the question is who is next?" he said.

To solve this problem, Abdullah said dialogue and negotiations are necessary, and the United States can play an important role in talks.

"I believe that the United States of America is the single country or the single party that can play a very strong role in this crisis because the United States has very good relations with all parties in the region, and United States could push all parties to sit down on the table and discuss the matter and try to start this kind of negotiation and dialogue," he said.

'NO SUPPORTER OF TERRORISTS'

Abdullah, who has served as a researcher and head of the Gulf Studies unit of the Al Jazeera Center for Studies, also insisted that one "cannot logically believe that Qatar supports terroristic groups."

The tension between Qatar and the other Gulf states was not an overnight matter and could be traced back to 1995, when Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani came to power, he said.

"Before that, between 1971 and 1995 after the United Kingdom left the region, Qatar was under the umbrella of Saudi Arabia, as well as other small states in the region," he said.

"But since 1995, the Qatari leaders decided to create their own foreign policy to be independent and open," he added.

When the Arab Spring unrest erupted in 2011, Qatar supported the parties’ arrival to power by election, said Abdullah.

"These parties represent the political Islam in the Arab world, and Qatar don’t actually believe and don’t rank these parties as terrorist groups or terrorist movement. On the other hand, UAE and Saudi Arabia presented them as terrorist groups," he added.

The issue this time, he said, is that the neighboring states that cut ties with Doha "try to bring Qatar in once again under the umbrella of Saudi Arabia."

"The issue here is that Saudi Arabia actually would like to lead the region, and I believe that Saudi Arabia could lead the region as the biggest country in the Arab world, but at the same time, Qatar has its own independent foreign policy," he said.

"What these countries asked Qatar to do, the 13 demands they asked to do, these demands actually touch the sovereignty of Qatar and I don’t think Qatar will accept these demands," he added.

Abdullah was referring to the list of demands released by Arab states after they announced they are severing ties with Qatar. The demands include the shutdown of media company Al-Jazeera.

Doha rejected the "unrealistic" demands as an attempt by the Gulf states to undermine the nation's sovereignty.