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Qatar says talks to end GCC crisis were suspended in January

Qatar’s foreign minister has said efforts to resolve a years-long Gulf diplomatic crisis were not successful and were suspended at the start of January. The discussions began in October last year over a rift that saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, along with Egypt, severing political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June…

Qatar says talks to end GCC crisis were suspended in January

Qatar’s foreign minister has said efforts to resolve a years-long Gulf diplomatic crisis were not successful and were suspended at the start of January.
The discussions began in October last year over a rift that saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, along with Egypt, severing political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017. The quartet continues to impose a land, air and sea blockade on Qatar, accusing it of “supporting terrorism” – a charge repeatedly and vehemently rejected by Doha.
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“It’s been almost three years,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
“We were not perpetrators and are open to any offer to resolve this problem,” he added.
“Unfortunately efforts did not succeed and were suspended at the beginning of January and Qatar is not responsible for this.”
In early December, the Qatari foreign minister had said that the parties had “moved from a stalemate” in the dispute, but later said it was “too early” to talk about real progress.
On Saturday, he did not elaborate further on the suspension of talks despite signs in recent months pointing to a possible thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
In December, Qatar’s then-Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani attended an annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, its highest representation at the meeting since 2017.
The six-member bloc is comprised of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.
“The work of the GCC has been affected by this crisis, and we hope to overcome many challenges next year,” Sheikh Abdullah said at the time, after the closed-door gathering in the kingdom’s capital.
His attendance came after the three Gulf blockading countries took part in a regional football tournament held in Qatar in November, reversing at the last minute an earlier decision to not participate.
Back in 2017, the quartet had set 13 demands for lifting the blockade, including the closing down of Al Jazeera Media Network, shuttering a Turkish military base and reducing ties with Iran. Qatar rejected the demands, offering instead “a proper condition for a dialogue” to resolve the Gulf crisis. 
In an interview with Al Jazeera aired in December last year, Qatar’s foreign minister said the terrorism accusation had been proved to have “no basis at all” by the international community.
He said Qatar will not offer any concessions that will “affect our sovereignty and interfere with our domestic or foreign policy”.
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Qatar to host long-awaited intra-Afghan talks from Saturday |NationalTribune.com

Doha, Qatar – The long-awaited talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban will take place in Qatar’s capital Doha from Saturday. Qatar’s foreign ministry made the announcement on Thursday as a final hurdle over the release of six Taliban prisoners appears to have been resolved.  “The State of Qatar is pleased to announce that the…

Qatar to host long-awaited intra-Afghan talks from Saturday |NationalTribune.com

Doha, Qatar – The long-awaited talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban will take place in Qatar’s capital Doha from Saturday.
Qatar’s foreign ministry made the announcement on Thursday as a final hurdle over the release of six Taliban prisoners appears to have been resolved. 
“The State of Qatar is pleased to announce that the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations will commence in Doha on Saturday the 12th of September 2020,” the ministry said in the statement.
“These vitally important direct negotiations between the different Afghan parties represent a step forward in bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan.”
The Taliban, while confirming the talks, said the dialogue “intends to advance the negotiation process in an appropriate manner and bring about comprehensive peace and a pure Islamic system in the framework of our Islamic values and higher national interests”.
A permanent ceasefire is expected to be at the top of the agenda as well as a political settlement to end the years-long conflict in the country.
The intra-Afghan talks were set to take place in March but have repeatedly been delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the United States-Taliban deal signed in February. 

In the agreement, the Taliban had agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops, while the government said it would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
France and Australia objected to freeing six of the Taliban prisoners who were involved in the killing of their nationals.
Taliban and Afghan government sources told Al Jazeera a compromise was reached by sending the six prisoners to Qatar where they will remain in custody.
“Our six brothers [Taliban prisoners] arrived in Qatar a little while ago in good health,” Taliban spokesman Naeem Wardak said in a statement on Thursday.
As part of the February agreement, the US will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Doha to take part in the peace talks.
Pompeo welcomed the start of negotiations, saying they will mark “a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to bring an end to four decades of war and bloodshed”.
The Afghan government backs the current political system, while the Taliban wants to reimpose its version of Islamic law as the country’s system of governance.
The armed group has, however, given vague comments on adopting a less strict stance towards women and social equality than during their 1996-2001 rule during which women were banned from attending school, working, taking part in politics or even leaving their homes without a male family member.
The Taliban will be led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the armed group’s chief justice and a close aide of the group’s chief Haibatullah Akhunzada.
The Afghan government negotiating team, including Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the National Reconciliation Council which has been tasked to hold talks with the armed group, is planning to fly to Doha on Friday.
The team also includes women’s rights activists.
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US envoy in Qatar: Gulf dispute ‘gone on too long’ |NationalTribune.com

The three-year blockade of Qatar by neighbouring Arab nations has gone on for too long and threatens regional security and prosperity, a US envoy has said. US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on Sunday acknowledged the challenge ahead of ending the crisis that has torn apart the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – with the United…

US envoy in Qatar: Gulf dispute ‘gone on too long’ |NationalTribune.com

The three-year blockade of Qatar by neighbouring Arab nations has gone on for too long and threatens regional security and prosperity, a US envoy has said.
US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on Sunday acknowledged the challenge ahead of ending the crisis that has torn apart the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain part of the siege.
Egypt also joined the blockade, which saw nations close their airspace and borders to Qatar in June 2017.
Kuwait and Oman, the two other nations in the GCC, have sought dialogue between the countries since, with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah leading those efforts.
The United States has so far unsuccessfully tried to mediate the dispute, which Washington sees as a threat to efforts to contain Iran.

“The dispute has continued for too long,” Hook told reporters from Doha after meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
“Bringing an end to this dispute really will advance the collective interests of all the parties to this conflict.”
‘Steps backwards’
Diplomats and Gulf sources have told the Reuters news agency the US has been trying to convince Saudi Arabia and its allies to reopen their airspace, but mediation efforts since the start of 2020 have yet to bear fruit.
Hook said he planned to travel on Monday to Kuwait City to meet with officials there and discuss the issue.
“I’ve seen some steps backwards over the last couple of years,” Hook said. “We’ve reached points where I think both sides were optimistic and we’ve reached points where both sides were pessimistic.
“I think our role and the role of Kuwait is to do what we can to foster dialogue, to help them make progress.”
The four countries cut ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, just after a summit in Saudi Arabia in which Gulf leaders met US President Donald Trump. They accuse Qatar of supporting “extremist groups” in the region, charges denied by Doha.
Included in their demands are closing a Turkish military base in Qatar and shutting down Al Jazeera Media Network.
The quartet has also pointed to Qatar’s close relationship with Iran, with which it shares a massive offshore gas field that provides the peninsular nation with its vast wealth. Qatar restored full diplomatic ties with Iran amid the dispute.

Hook said the hospitalisation of the 91-year-old Kuwaiti ruler would “not have any negative effect on diplomatic efforts” to end the blockade. Sheikh Sabah, who is in the US receiving medical treatment, has long tried to end the siege.
The US envoy said he believed Sheikh Sabah, a long-serving diplomat, would want Kuwaiti efforts to continue.
Iran arms embargo
Hook is in the Middle East to urge the extension of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran. Washington is trying to extend the embargo warning failure would “intensify” regional conflicts.
“I’ve spoken with leaders here in the Gulf and around the world – no one believes that Iran should be able to freely buy and sell conventional weapons such as fighter jets … and various kinds of missiles,” said Hook.
The US has urged the UN Security Council to extend the embargo which expires in October. The extension is opposed by veto-wielding Russia and China, which stand to gain major arms contracts from Iran.
“If the Security Council fails to extend the arms embargo by October 18, Iran will be able to freely buy and sell these weapons,” Hook said. “Imagine what the region will look like if this happens, conflicts in places like Syria and Yemen will certainly intensify.”
US arch foe Iran is a key player on the side of the Syrian government in the country’s conflict, and is aligned with Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting the government, supported by a coalition led by American ally Saudi Arabia.
Iran has vehemently opposed any extension of the arms embargo. Last month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the Trump administration “an outlaw bully” that is waging “economic terrorism” on his country.
If the US is unsuccessful in extending the weapons embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, from which Washington unilaterally withdrew in 2018. 

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Reports of Qatar leaving Gulf bloc ‘incorrect and baseless’ |NationalTribune.com

Qatar has denied reports that it plans to quit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as it prepares to mark three years of a blockade imposed by its neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt. However, the gas-rich state cautioned that the effort by three of the GCC’s six members to isolate…

Reports of Qatar leaving Gulf bloc ‘incorrect and baseless’ |NationalTribune.com

Qatar has denied reports that it plans to quit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as it prepares to mark three years of a blockade imposed by its neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt.
However, the gas-rich state cautioned that the effort by three of the GCC’s six members to isolate Qatar economically and politically meant people in the region were “doubting and questioning” the organisation.
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“Reports claiming that Qatar is considering leaving the GCC are wholly incorrect and baseless,” Qatar’s assistant foreign minister Lolwah al-Khater told AFP news agency on Thursday.
“Such rumours must have originated from people’s despair and disappointment with a fractured GCC, which used to be a source of hope and aspiration for the people of the six member countries,” she said.
“As we are reaching the third year of the illegal blockade on Qatar by Saudi, UAE and Bahrain, there is no wonder why the people of the GCC are doubting and questioning the GCC as an institution. Qatar hopes the GCC will once again be a platform of cooperation and coordination. An effective GCC is needed now more than ever, given the challenges facing our region.”
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, along with non-GCC member Egypt, cut diplomatic, economic and travel ties with Qatar in June 2017 over their insistence that Qatar was too close to Iran and backing hardline movements.
Qatar rejected the charge and refused to budge on the 13 demands made by the blockading nations. The demands included the closure of the Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network, and shutting a Turkish base in Qatar.
The dispute will enter its third year on June 5.
“Qataris are asking themselves what benefit a membership in the GCC still has, as the organisation has been usurped by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to coerce the smaller states into followership, while no initiative is being made to bring the Gulf crisis to an end,” said King’s College assistant professor Andreas Krieg.
Oman and Kuwait are the other two members of the body, which oversees regional economic and military coordination, along with Qatar and its regional rivals.
Meanwhile, Qatar has reiterated to the United Nations Security Council the blockade affects security and stability of the region.
The meeting on Protection of civilians in armed conflict was held virtually on Thursday and was attended by Qatar’s permanent representative to the UN, Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani.
“The unjust blockade imposed against it threatens the security and stability of the region, violates international law and contradicts the orientations of the international community,” Sheikha Alya said in a statement.
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