Boycott of Qatar: three years later, the status quo

Doha, Qatar. © RFI / Éric Bataillon

Text by: Nicolas Keraudren Follow

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties with their neighbor, Qatar. Three years later and despite attempts to mediate by Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman to find a way out of the crisis, Qatar is still isolated in the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose headquarters are based in Riyadh.


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From our correspondent in Dubai,

Three years after the boycott of Qatar, the Gulf Cooperation Council - which will celebrate its fortieth anniversary next year - is still as divided. The organization is even "  functionally dead  ", says independent researcher Nabeel Nowairah.

Because on June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, joined by their Egyptian ally, unilaterally severed their diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar . The tiny gas emirate is accused of being too close to the two sworn enemies of Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama: Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The attempted isolation

Concretely, this boycott resulted in the closure of air and maritime spaces to planes and ships coming from or going to Doha. The effects of such a measure, however, were not devastating for its economy, even though around 60% of Qatar's imports passed through the countries that initiated the boycott.

According to Nabeel Nowairah, the leaders of the wealthy emirate have indeed "  taken diplomatic, military and economic measures quickly to get through the crisis  ". Qatar, for example, has found other allies in the region like Turkey , and has also improved its infrastructure, particularly in terms of food supply. The emirate is therefore today "  much less dependent on the other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council  ", continues the analyst.

This position, however, makes the emirate "  less inclined to negotiate an end to the crisis  ". Qatar, invoking its sovereignty, has always refused to comply with the thirteen requests made by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. These included the closure of the Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera .

In addition, "there is  no indication either that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain are about to soften their position against Qatar,  " said Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a consulting firm in Washington-based geopolitical risks.

The status quo

Coordination between the Gulf countries to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the region illustrates this. Even if Qatari representatives participated in the virtual meetings of the Gulf Cooperation Council on the issue, Qatar had previously accused Saudi Arabia last February of not having granted the Minister of Health a visa on time. at a meeting in Riyadh.

At the same time, various rumors on social networks have aggravated the situation. Starting with that of a coup in Qatar following the broadcast on May 4 of a fake video on Twitter, with an account without subscribers and with a portrait of King Salman of Saudi Arabia in profile photo . Other rumors, denied by Doha, evoked Qatar's intention to leave the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The Gulf crisis, with all its ramifications, has thus "  become very difficult to resolve and any resolution under international pressure will only be superficial and will not attack the root causes of the conflict  ", warns Nabeel Nowairah who is also the author of an article to "  rethink American policy towards the Cooperation Council for the fractured Gulf  ".

Mediation and hopes

Some observers nevertheless predicted a possible end to the crisis at the end of last year. Signs of appeasement had indeed been sent by Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama. During the last edition of the Gulf of Nations Cup which took place in Qatar , the participation of the national football teams of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had been noticed. The Bahraini team also won the competition against Saudi Arabia and received the trophy from the hands of Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani. The presence of the Emir of Qatar at the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh last December was also mentioned. But Qatar had finally been represented by its Prime Minister.

In this context, the two other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council - namely Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman - are continuing mediations to put an end to the crisis. As the boycott's third anniversary approaches, the Prime Minister of Kuwait said: "  The attempts are continuing and the hopes are higher than before. We used to take one step and then take two steps back. But now, if we advance one step, it is followed by another step  . ”

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  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Bahrain

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