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Negotiations with 4 Boycotting Countries Aborted over Qatar's 'Maneuvering'

Negotiations with 4 Boycotting Countries Aborted over Qatar's 'Maneuvering'

Wednesday, 12 February, 2020 - 06:15
A general view of the Corniche Towers is seen in Doha, Qatar February 5, 2019. (Reuters)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Talks between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to resolve the Gulf dispute broke down soon after starting, six sources said, according to Reuters.

Qatar’s maneuvering has been blamed for the collapse of the talks.

The discussions that began in October were the first glimmer of a thaw in the row that saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt sever political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in mid-2017.

The countries accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran.

Qatar’s priority in the discussions was to restore free movement for its citizens to the boycotting nations, access to the airspace of those countries and reopening Qatar’s only land border shared with Saudi Arabia, four Western diplomats in the Gulf and two sources familiar with Qatari thinking said.

However, Riyadh wanted Qatar to first demonstrate a fundamental change in behavior, particularly in its foreign policy that has seen Doha back opposing sides in several regional conflicts, three of the diplomats said.

Qatar’s government communications office and Saudi Arabia’s media ministry did not reply to a Reuters’ request for comment.

Two additional Gulf sources familiar with the talks said Saudi Arabia, which was representing the remaining boycotting states, ended the talks shortly after an annual Gulf summit in Riyadh in December that Qatar’s emir did not attend.

The Qataris “didn’t seem serious”, one of the sources said.

A source familiar with Saudi thinking said Riyadh had been hopeful about the talks but things were now “back to square one”.

The four boycotting states in 2017 presented Doha with a list of 13 demands, including ending media incitement, shuttering a Turkish base, halting support for the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading ties with Iran.

A Gulf diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Qatari negotiators did not appear serious in wanting to reach consensual solutions that resolve the fundamental roots of the crisis.

“They instead appeared to maneuver in order to prolong the talks, prompting Riyadh to halt them, even though the Kingdom had appeared open from the start to ending the dispute,” he revealed.

Saudi Arabia is committed to its vision to ending the crisis, “especially in regards to issues that threaten the security of the four boycotting countries.” Resolving the dispute can only take place through an agreement on a “comprehensive vision that includes all of the boycotting countries.”

Qatar’s negotiators must abandon their maneuvering before returning to the negotiations table once again, demanded the diplomat.

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