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‘Show proof if you are telling the truth’

March 13, 2014 - 4:29:18 am
A decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to recall their ambassadors from Qatar shocked the people of GCC countries at a time the region was looking forward to more unity, integration and cooperation so that the nations could overcome the challenges they face at the regional and international levels. 

The recall of the ambassadors is an unprecedented and unfamiliar move affecting fraternal relations among Gulf countries. Even going by norms of international relations it is quite unusual. The usual practice is for countries to recall their ambassadors for consultation in case there is a difference of views. In case of sisterly countries, ambassadors are not recalled, but only summoned for consultation. 

This move by the three countries comes three months after the Gulf Summit held in Kuwait. Prior to the summit, did the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia recommend discussions over a proposal to create a Gulf federation in 2011? Now, Saudi Arabia, which called for the creation of this Gulf federation, is striking at the pillars of the GCC. So what about the federation, then?

Back to the main issue: Why did Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain suddenly recall their ambassadors from Qatar?

By reading the joint statement of the three countries, one cannot point out a specific accusation levelled against Qatar, one that can justify their strange decision. The statement can at the least be called “ambiguous” and “unspecific”. It talks about security and the need to preserve it, but it does not mention one single act by Qatar that merits a problem with the country. Why did the statement not mention steps taken by Qatar that threatened security, if there are any? 

The statement, which was written in the dark of the night, then talks about the Gulf security agreement. It, however, did not mention what exactly the three countries want from the agreement so that people of the Gulf region are not left in the dark. 

The security of the Gulf is at the heart of Qatar’s interests. It is the preoccupation of its leaders. Qatar is a country that strives to preserve the security and stability of the Gulf and the welfare of its people. It also works hard to bolster ties among the members of the Gulf family. These are facts that need no words for expression. Qatar’s stance on these issues is as clear as daylight. No country or personality in the Gulf can deny these facts. 

We can all recall an announcement by the Bahraini Interior Ministry in November 2011 which said that Qatar handed over to it members of a terrorist cell who had left Bahrain, while security agencies there could not arrest them. The members of the cell entered Saudi Arabia where they couldn’t be arrested. However, when they tried to enter Qatar, security agencies arrested them. Important documents and devices were found in the possession of group members. The Qatar government then handed the members of the cell to Bahraini authorities, which the lauded Qatar’s role. This is Qatar’s position. Has everybody forgotten it?

The statement of the three Gulf countries then talks about an agreement signed in Riyadh last November during a visit to Saudi Arabia by the Emir, H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. During the visit, the Emir met with King Abdullah and the Emir of Kuwait. This is all true. The statement, however, does not refer to the articles of this agreement. It does not also refer to things agreed at the meeting of GCC foreign ministers held in Kuwait last November. It was agreed in the meeting that Kuwait, in its capacity as the head of the current Gulf Summit, would sketch out mechanisms for the implementation of the agreement and send it to Gulf countries for discussion during the ministerial meeting, which was held recently in Riyadh. 

Kuwait did this. It sent the agreement implementation mechanisms to the countries concerned. However, everything done by Kuwait was annulled to the surprise of everybody attending the Riyadh meeting, while new mechanisms and conditions were presented. Why didn’t the “great” statement of the three Gulf countries refer to this? Is it enough that the statement mention only truncated truths?

The crux of the matter is that the whole thing is not about an intra-Gulf dispute. It is rather an intra-Gulf dispute over things that fall outside the boundaries of the GCC. Qatar’s statement in this regard referred to this clearly and in all transparency. The statement said: “There is no relationship between the move taken by the brothers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain and the interests of people of the Gulf, their security or stability. It all boils down to positions on issues that fall outside the GCC”. 

This is the reality. To be accurate, the difference of opinion is focused on the situation in Egypt. Every country has its own view and position. Even with this, why should we destroy the GCC because of a difference of opinion on some files that do not serve the interests of people of the Gulf? We were hoping that there would be real discussion, while our difference of views would focus on the quality of services Gulf governments should offer to their people. We were hoping that rivalry among Gulf governments would be about this, not to let our difference of opinion on issues that fall outside the GCC affect cordial relations in this way. 

Why should we be mere copies of each other? Why should everybody leave his stamp on our foreign positions, even as these positions – or at least they should – do not affect matters at the level of the Gulf? Differences of opinion are a healthy thing. They happen inside any system. What happens inside the European Union proves this. European Union member countries adopt different foreign policies towards various issues. This difference, however, does not make them recall their ambassadors or level accusations at one another. 

“Qatar acts solely and in isolation from everybody else,” has already turned into everybody’s mantra. Yes, Qatar has its own convictions on which it builds its own positions. It derives these positions from its principles and values. It cannot stay away from these, regardless of the problems others cause for it. At the same time, Qatar honours its commitments, even those it makes verbally, let alone the ones that are written down. 

“We are committed to our values and principles,” the Emir, 

H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said. “We do not live on the margins of life. We do not wander aimlessly and we are not anyone’s lackeys waiting for instructions. This type of independent behaviour is a thing that is taken for granted in Qatar. We have our own vision.”

Qatar opens its doors for dialogue on all issues. It has nothing to hide; it does not need to delay discussion on any issue. The country is ready to put forward all issues for discussion by all Gulf people. It is more than ready to open dialogue on these issues because it has self-confidence. It has full confidence in the importance of dialogue with everybody because it does not have any “phobias” in relation to anyone. 

Qatar’s relations with all parties are clear. Nobody can claim that Qatar is taking sides. Those who claim that Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have forgotten that Qatar had backed the Egyptian revolution since its earliest days. These people have forgotten that the Father Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani visited Cairo only three months after the success of the revolution. That was in May 2011. He met with the head of the then ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. 

Two months later in June 2011, then Heir Apparent H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani visited Cairo and met Tantawi. The Muslim Brotherhood had not appeared on Egypt’s political stage then. Qatar presented financial support for the Egyptian people. This continued to happen even after the military coup; it continued to send natural gas shipments it donated to the Egyptian people during the year-long rule of elected president Mohammed Mursi. Qatar never reneged on its pledges in this regard. 

Some people talk about Al Jazeera channel and the need to make it more subservient so that it can be turned into yet another tamed media tool like the rest of official media in the Arab world. In demanding this, these people forget that we are in an open world where knowledge travels faster than sound. 

Al-Jazeera is a news channel that has nothing to do with Qatar. This is a well-known fact. Now what about some Gulf media that keep attacking Qatar day and night? What about some official Gulf personalities who take over senior positions in their countries, then attack Qatar, and abuse rights of the neighbour? Why does anybody not talk about these things? 

Qatar has refrained from reacting to these silly things over the years. It refused to be drawn into this. It even refused to show anger or make a statement expressing condemnation. It rather continued to say that views expressed in Gulf media are part of the freedom of speech the people who expressed them are entitled to. It at the same time gave readers and viewers the opportunity to realise the role of the media. It did not want to impose any restrictions on people’s minds. 

Not all the claims made about Qatar are founded on facts. They are nothing more than newspaper clippings, which do not even come from decent newspapers. 

Some people talk about Qatar’s support to the Shia Houthi group. But how can anybody believe this? Two months ago, Qatar offered the Yemeni government $350m in aid. It also pledged to launch several development projects in different areas in Yemen in order to support the people of this dear country. 

Some people talk about Qatari support to the Muslim Brotherhood, adding that the Brotherhood wants to change regimes in some countries. But what is the system of rule in Qatar? Is not the system of rule in Qatar the same as in other Gulf countries? Is not it about hereditary rule? How can we believe these claims then? 

Our brothers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain got angry because of a difference of opinion with Qatar over the ‘Egyptian file.’ It is a mere difference of positions which made them recall their ambassadors. These countries did not act similarly when Iraq attacked Saudi Arabia with rockets. We have not heard any condemnation of the execution of Saudi nationals by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki in Iraqi jails. This is without doubt a criminal act. We stand in solidarity with our brothers in Saudi Arabia against any threat targeting them.

Our brothers in the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassador in Doha because of a difference of opinion on an issue that does not fall within the boundaries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Why have not the Emiratis been so active in defending three of their islands that are occupied by another country now? The whole world knows that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the United Arab Emirates’ largest trading partner. We always emphasise our rejection of the occupation of the Emirati islands. We always call for their return to the mother country. 

As for our brothers in Bahrain, I do not want to talk about their decision to recall their ambassador in Doha. 

This is a sensitive juncture in the history of the GCC. It requires integration and unity so that we can overcome the challenges we face. We were hoping that we would mark the 34rd anniversary of the establishment of the GCC next May while we are more united and stronger so that we can be up to regional and international groupings. This is why the latest decisions astonish. Are these decisions timely? 

God knows that the people and the leadership of Qatar wish nothing but dignity and welfare for every citizen and every leadership in the Gulf. Qatar works to make these things a reality, dedicating every thought and offering support for them in cooperation with other GCC countries. 

We have hopes that we can overcome the current “cloud” because we believe that we have a common history and a common fate. Our bond cannot be broken under any circumstances. 

Qatar will continue to preserve its principles and values. It will never bow to anybody or compromise these values or principles, which it inherited from fathers and grandfathers. We will pass these values and principles to our children and grandchildren with full pride.