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Qatar says Gulf alliance needs replacing

Storyline:National News, World


Qatar called Saturday for a new regional alliance following the failure of the four-decade-old Gulf Cooperation Council to resolve an 18-month rift between the emirate and its neighbours.

Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that the boycott imposed on the emirate by Saudi Arabia and its allies had irreparably damaged the existing six-nation structure set up at the height of the Iran-Iraq war in 1981.

“The regional alliance has been undermined by the crisis,” Sheikh Mohammed told policymakers at the two-day Doha Forum.

“Therefore the alliance that existed needs to be reshaped and redesigned to ensure future stability and security of the region.”

The minister said the GCC had “no teeth” to resolve any dispute.

“They have mechanisms in place and never trigger them because some countries believe they are non-binding.”

He said that despite the failings of the GCC, he still expected a regional solution.

Kuwait has been leading diplomatic efforts but has so far been unable to resolve the crisis.

The minister was speaking after Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, stayed away from the GCC’s annual summit in Riyadh last Sunday despite receiving an invitation from its Saudi hosts.

Sheikh Mohammed lashed out at the reasons advanced by Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates for imposing their sweeping boycott.

“It was based on lies, it was based on crimes… it was based on creating propaganda to create fear among the people,” he said.

Riyadh and its allies accused Doha of supporting “terrorist groups”, including the Muslim Brotherhood which they blacklist but with which Qatar has longstanding ties.

They also accused the emirate of advocating improved relations with Saudi arch-rival Iran, with which Qatar shares important offshore gas fields.

They set out their complaints in a 13-point list of demands that have been rejected by Doha as an assault on its sovereignty and its right to conduct an independent foreign policy.

In his opening remarks to the forum, the emir said Qatar’s Gulf partners needed to show respect for the country’s independence.

“Our position has not changed on how to solve the Gulf crisis,” the Qatari leader said.

“This can be achieved by lifting the siege and resolving difference through dialogue and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”

The forum also heard from Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor-Viorel Melescanu who said the European Union was working on organising talks to try to resolve the crisis.