Reconciliation with Qatar?

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan commenting on the potential resolution of the Gulf crisis kicked off some domestic Saudi discussion of potential reconciliation with Qatar:

“We deeply appreciate efforts made by the brotherly State of Kuwait to bridge the gap in viewpoints regarding the Gulf Crisis, and thank the American efforts in this regard, and look forward to these efforts being crowned with success for the benefit and good of the region.”

Most media discussion has:

  • Played up the importance of reconciliation within the GCC
  • Noted Saudi’s leadership role in encouraging that reconciliation now, framing the “boycott” as a painful and unavoidable step in the past
  • Avoided mention of specific Qatari actions leading up to the blockade or as a condition for ending the “boycott”
  • 2017 rift analogized to the 2013 rift – compromise solutions can be found

In its initial coverage of the diplomatic “breakthrough,” for example, Okaz was quick to present the potential for reconciliation as a clear Saudi triumph (emphasis added):

Gulf observers confirmed to Okaz that Riyadh’s foreign policy priorities focus on Gulf security as an indivisible whole, explaining that the Kingdom has preserved this principle in word and deed… Gulf experts pointed out that the Kingdom, since the first day of the emergency crisis with Qatar, believed in the importance of a political solution, as the main beneficiaries of the current dispute are the enemies of the Gulf, Arabs and the region who harbor evil for it, and seek to implement their expansion plans.

Okaz, 12.6.2020

Likewise from Al-Riyadh‘s editorial:

Riyadh has believes in the importance of a political solution since the first day of the renewal of the crisis with Qatar, whether in 2017 or before it in 2013. It believes that this is the way to overcome all problems and overcome all security concerns that threaten the GCC countries.

Al-Riyadh, 12.6.2020

Khalid al-Suleiman’s op-ed shows the “demonstration effect” of officials’ statements inaugurating a shift in media coverage:

The Saudi Foreign Minister’s positive statement towards the Kuwaiti-American efforts, as well as the receipt of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, a cable of congratulations from the Emir of Kuwait, which was highlighted in the Saudi media, confirming that there is work going on in the diplomatic corridors to open the closed doors, and that there is a real opportunity to achieve reconciliation!

The Saudis, who have contributed to the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council and supported its role in strengthening relations between its countries and its peoples… reaffirm their role in containing differences… to unify efforts and close ranks in the face of regional challenges that do not tolerate frivolous practices !

In short, it is important for reconciliation efforts to succeed in the interest of the “Arab” Gulf!

Khalid al-Suleiman, Okaz, 12.7.2020

Tariq al-Homayed even referred directly back to the resolution of the last GCC rift, which this present reconciliation seems to resemble – reconciliation is now justified in part by the threat posed by Iran and Turkey (no indication of what has changed however).

Fear for the Cooperation Council is justified, and therefore there were several statements about the need for Gulf security coordination, and for Gulf-Gulf relations to be good, in the hopes of cutting off the road to Iran, and of course Turkey.

This was evident in the vision of King Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2015 aimed at achieving the desired integration of the Council in the security, political, military and economic sectors. Accordingly, no one wants to divide the Council, and its states.

Okaz, 12.6.2020

Reconciliation is good news, writes Hamood Abu Taleb for the same:

Any Arab citizen in general and in the Gulf in particular must be encouraged by the news that heralded the reaching of a solution to the Gulf crisis that entailed the quartet’s boycott of Qatar… What happened was not an optional decision for the boycotting countries, but it was necessary dictated by security and political considerations. However, all hoped that the reasons for imposing the boycott would disappear, so that harmony and joint work that serves the interests of all would return…

Any Arab-Arab dispute is, in fact, a crack in the wall of security and stability for all Arabs, especially in this turbulent phase fraught with surprises, intrigues and intrigues targeting Arab countries. Therefore, any attempt to remove the mines of problems and disagreements is good news for every Arab who wishes good, stability and peace for his homeland.

Okaz, 12.7.2020

Abdelrahman al-Rashed, in an article entitled “Is it a sincere reconciliation?,” emphasized a few more points, namely:

  • The blockading countries could have easily continued this diplomatic isolation for a long time (“like the case between the United States and Cuba”) and Qatar is still on notice for the future
  • Framing dispute as relatively costless, or at least without irreparable harm (“three years without blood or bullets”… “the quarter chose from the book of diplomacy the easiest and least harmful ways to reflect their dissatisfaction: they cut ties, withdrew ambassadors, and stopped commercial exchanges”)
  • Acknowledging “possible” motivations for ending the crisis

The most difficult condition in reconciliation is the requirement to prove good intentions. Qatar must demonstrate that it has changed in the face of widespread skepticism about it… 

In my opinion, the relationship, this time, either returns better than ever before in the history of the five countries, a strong, prosperous relationship and cooperation at all levels that it has never witnessed before, or it relapses and falls on its face. All it would take is the appearance of one piece of evidence of support for opponents and extremists. Then, it would become a deep crisis, worse than the previous estrangement. Therefore, the fate of the relationship is in the hands of Doha alone, and not Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, or Manama. 

We are on the brink of the end of the most difficult Gulf dispute, and whether the reasons for reconciliation were in response to the desire of the outgoing President Donald Trump (who wished for countries to end the crisis), or it was Doha’s desire to anticipate its organizing the World Cup, or just a moment of serenity that was welcomed by everyone… the important thing is that it is a sincere, not temporary reconciliation.

Aawsat, 12.9.2020

There has been little on this in Qatari papers that I can see, beyond relaying Farhan’s remarks.

Update (12/16)

Al-Yamamah, No. 2637, December 10, 2020

Al-Yamamah carried a cover story on potential Gulf reconciliation on December 10, with a bit more emphasis on the role of Kuwaiti diplomacy (alongside that of Saudi Arabia, of course) and with a bit more rhetorical emphasis on Gulf unity. This is in line with the slightly more independent, slightly more pan-Arab editorial line of the magazine.

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