Qatar remains resolute as deadline is extended by 48 hours
The United States (US) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking on the list of demands by Saudi led coalition against Qatar said in a statement “he hopes they will be reasonable and actionable”. The list which was subsequently presented to Qatar invited wide spread criticisms, many have said the demands are “un-actionable and unreasonable”. Qatar on the other hand has rejected the list of demands, according to the foreign minister of Qatar Sheik Mohammed bin Abdurrahman al Thani the demands “were made to be rejected”. Amongst the demands presented to the Qatari government is the closure of Al Jazeera Media Network. The United Nations (UN) Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement that the demand to close Al Jazeera Media Network is “extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has also been very vocal in expressing his dissatisfaction with the blockade and the list of demands presented to Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) led coalition. Speaking to Handelsblatt business newspaper he criticized the treatment of Qatar by other major Arab nations and “likened it to a Trumpization of relations”. Late on 02 July 2017 Al Jazeera English reported that Qatar has prepared a response to the list of demands and has submitted the response to the Emir of Kuwait, Jaber al Ahmad al Sabah. Kuwait announced early Monday morning that the deadline has been extended by 48 hours giving negotiations a new lease on life. It also emerged from the same report that there has been a number of calls amongst the leaders of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) and between the Emir of Qatar Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al Thani with the president of the US Donald Trump. In the meantime the Qatari Stock Market suffered a 3% loss by the close of business on 02 July 2017.
The strong reactions from a number of countries condemning the blockade of Qatar, has weakened the Saudi led coalition’s resolve against Qatar. Furthermore the critical coverage by most publications regarding the blockade and the list of demands have put the coalition on the back foot. The Economist magazine for an example has been unrelenting. On 29 June 2017 the magazine reported that Saudi Arabia a country whose pro-democracy blogger named Raif Badawi “has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in jail, is trying to shut down the only big, feisty broadcaster in the Arab world, Al Jazeera. This is an extraordinary, extraterritorial assault on free speech. It is as if China had ordered Britain to abolish the BBC”. Qatar’s foreign relations have undoubtedly come out of age, the country is entering big global politics arena independent from the GCC. Qatar has to embrace this new reality whatever the costs including the possibility of loosing its permanent position within the GCC. This new political arena comes with certain kinds of political characteristics. This will indeed present both opportunities and challenges to Qatar. More will be expected from Qatar henceforth, there will be a close political scrutiny as the country entrenches itself in this new environment.
Qatar has stated very clearly that it would not compromise its sovereignty by yielding to the demands of the coalition. Qatar is perhaps the first country in the region that has ever received this amount of solidarity. It is something that none in the region will ever garner in their best of days. The country can only move forward from here, the reaction and solidarity dictate a different political and foreign policy trajectory. In recent times the government of Qatar has been under pressure to fine-tune certain laws particularly those pertaining to the treatment of workers involved in the construction of stadiums for the FIFA 2022 World Cup, those pressures are most likely to continue. Changes in Qatar sociopolitical postures and foreign policy positions will continue to irk its neighbours. This is therefore not the last political standoffs between Qatar and its neighbours.
Finally, Qatar has embraced high moral ground throughout this debacle. It is an unprecedented political action in a region whose political reactions have been characterised by violence and impunity when faced with such challenges. The country has reassured all citizens from the “hostile nations” that their rights in Qatar will be guaranteed and will not be expelled from the country. However the concern for many in the region is not Qatar’s reactions but that of bigger nations like Saudi Arabia and the UAE in future. It is the emerging of a “maverick leadership style” which seeks to bully its way through in a whim which is of greatest concern to many in the region.