Saudi delegation discusses Qatar issue in Doha and Manama
Riyadh, Kuwait, Manama and Doha, Asharq Al-Awsat—A high-level Saudi delegation, including Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, arrived in Doha on Wednesday and held discussions with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.
Prince Saud was joined by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz and Interior Minister Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The delegation later arrived in Manama and held a closed meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa. The two sides discussed the results of the talks in Doha, as well as the latest developments in the region.
According to the Qatar News Agency (QNA), the Saudi delegation and the Emir discussed relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and ways to develop them, in addition to other issues of mutual concern. The visit was described by diplomats as a last-ditch effort to heal the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
Qatar’s three neighbors withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in March, saying that the Qatari government’s foreign policy and media outlets were not compatible with the principle of non-interference in its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members’ affairs.
A Kuwaiti diplomat, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, described the unexpected visit by the Saudi delegation to Doha and Manama as “last-minute diplomacy” to solve the ongoing rift within the GCC.
The diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Doha and Manama meetings were a “diplomatic breakthrough, which was the result of high-level intervention, and which proved the success of Kuwaiti mediation.”
The source added that “in light of the numerous opportunities given to Doha, the visit by Prince Saud Al-Faisal may be a final opportunity” to resolve the dispute.
Previous attempts to resolve the rift between the four Gulf states have been unsuccessful, with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE accusing Qatar of failing to respect the Riyadh Agreement, a security pact drawn up by the GCC member states last year.
While both sides agreed to an accord mediated by Kuwait in April, Qatar refused last week to endorse the report drawn up by the committee formed to oversee Qatar’s compliance with its terms.
The diplomat source told Asharq Al-Awsat he did not expect a solution to be found that involves giving extra time to Qatar to comply, because “what is needed is to issue immediate instructions to Al-Jazeera TV to change its discourse regarding the situation in Egypt.”
The source said that GCC members were eager to find a solution to the dispute soon because of worsening regional tensions.
He said: “[We] need this issue to be resolved and to look . . . to the next stage in light of the security challenges in the region, including the south with the Houthis in Yemen, and in the north, with ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] in Iraq.”
“Uniting Gulf visions regarding the complex issues in the . . . region has become more urgent than before, because of the tense areas in the region. We want to go to Arab meetings, and the meetings which will be held on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, with a united Gulf stance as we used to do before.”
Foreign ministers from the GCC are due to hold a regular meeting in Jeddah on Saturday, when they will discuss a number of issues including a report by a technical committee of Qatar’s implementation of the Riyadh Agreement in relation to the conflict with Qatar.
Obaid Al-Suhaymi and Reem Al-Mea’ contributed additional reporting from Doha and Riyadh.