Monday, June 8, 2020

In the Gulf, political disputes prevail over the needs of the people

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohamed bin Abdel Rahman Al-Thani looks back on the crisis with Saudi Arabia and its allies, three years after it started, and says he is ready "to discuss a long-term solution".

Since June 5, 2017, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt have placed Qatar, which they accuse of complacency with regard to the Islamists and Tehran, under diplomatic and economic embargo. On the occasion of the three years of this crisis, Mohamed bin Abdel Rahman Al-Thani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the emirate, reflects on the consequences, at a time when all the countries of the Gulf are confronted with the epidemic of Covid -19.

Last fall, we saw some signs of relaxation between the players in the Gulf crisis. And then this rapprochement ceased. Where are we today?

Unfortunately, the efforts of the past year have not worked, although there has been progress. It seems that the other side did not want to engage in real negotiations. However, mediation efforts by the Emir of Kuwait and the United States continue. We remain ready to discuss a long-term solution, as long as it does not infringe on our sovereignty and does not violate international law. But it must be understood that this crisis was manufactured from scratch, with a smear and propaganda campaign against Qatar, which had no justification and continues to this day. If there has been no breakthrough in the negotiations, it is because the fabricated aspect of the crisis has never been recognized.

The United States is working to resolve the air aspect of the crisis, by pushing Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to reopen their skies on Qatar Airways aircraft. How determined is Washington?

No progress has been made yet. But we remain in close contact with the Americans. This story has been illegal from the start. Our case is before the International Criminal Court and the International Civil Aviation Organization and we hope to recover our airspace.

In the debate on the next world, what is Qatar's position? What must be changed so that a health crisis like the one we have gone through does not repeat itself?

No country can feel safe anymore, this is the novelty. Previous epidemics, like those of SARS, had not really spread to regions other than those in which they had emerged. But the Covid-19 pandemic has reached all of us. So the first lesson from this crisis is that every country in the world needs a resilient health system that can cope. Second, there is a need to strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation, to ensure that countries have a unified platform for exchanging views and experience. Finally, we must guarantee the protection of supply chains, so that we can meet our domestic needs, but also the needs of other countries.

Can the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, the cooperation structure of the six monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula) overcome the divisions of its members to help them cope with the post-Covid economic crisis?

The blockade of Qatar damaged the GCC. We hoped that in this period of global crisis, wisdom would prevail and that the challenges we faced would revive regional cooperation. Unfortunately, the GCC remains paralyzed. During the pandemic, a meeting of the health ministers of its member countries was organized in Riyadh. Unfortunately, our minister was not allowed to fly to Riyadh until the meeting ended. This shows a lack of seriousness to deal with the crisis. Political disputes prevail over the needs of our peoples. The blockade mentality is stronger.

With a view to the 2022 football world cup to be held on its territory, Qatar has repeatedly promised the abolition of the Kafala (the system that chains migrant workers in the Gulf to their employers). But despite progress, the effective revocation of this system is still pending ...

We have made a lot of progress in the area of workers' rights. We are completely abolishing the Kafala.

Workers no longer need to obtain an exit visa to travel. But the certificate of no objection is still required, and without this document migrants cannot change jobs freely ...

Migrants who want to change jobs and who are illegally refused by their employer can appeal to the labor claims office. The lifting of the no objection certificate should be in place soon and a minimum wage will soon be introduced.

What lessons can we learn from the fiasco of Khalifa Haftar, this dissident Libyan marshal, who has just lost the battle of Tripoli, against the forces of the national agreement government of Faïez Sarraj?

We say, since the Skhirat agreement in 2015, that the conflict in Libya must be resolved by a political process and not by coups and military aggression. Haftar has always preferred violence. He is only interested in the political process when he looses a round, only to come back in force. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that the international community must comply with the political process, within the framework of international law and UN resolutions. Doing so would have saved many Libyan lives and saved the country’s significant resources.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may announce the annexation of part of the West Bank in July. This project is almost unanimously criticized. But there is no agreement on how to react. What do you recommend?

We reject this initiative, which amounts to planting the last nail in the coffin of the peace process. The annexation of these territories will bury any possibility of settling the conflict in the future. The security, economic and social implications will be catastrophic for the entire region. Many states share this position. But the reality is that we do not see agreement among the international community on how to enforce this position. It’s something as old as the Israeli occupation.

Qatar welcomed the signing of a historic peace agreement between the United States and the Afghan Taliban in February. Since then, several attacks have taken place in the country. What can be done to preserve this treaty which seems to be on the verge of collapse?

There is no collapse. This agreement has always been seen as a first step. True peace will only come when the Kabul government on the one side and the Taliban on the other speak together. We hope that this inter-Afghan dialogue will start soon.


Le Monde

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