Not days passed since the Al-Ula agreement in Riyadh, which culminated in a Gulf reconciliation, until many questions surfaced about the timing and causes of reconciliation, and the motives behind the movement of all parties, and because the analysis may take us far in trying to explain the matter, we tried to “Field“Through an exclusive interview with the Assistant of the Qatari Foreign Minister and the spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, Her Excellency Mrs. Lulwa Al-Khater, we can see the matter from the angle of the State of Qatar, and how you view this agreement and the questions and threat elements surrounding it.
- Maidan: How did the Gulf move from the margin of Arab political action to its center?
Al-Khater: There is no doubt that the Gulf crisis greatly affected joint Arab action, but was the Gulf crisis alone that contributed to this, or are there several factors that have combined to do so?
This question must be asked, and I think that the issue was cumulative, unfortunately there are a number of Arab capitals that historically led public opinion due to certain circumstances and circumstances, sometimes they were wars and other factors, which led to a significant contraction of their role, but we cannot say The Gulf crisis specifically was the reason for this, but it was the result of a state of disintegration in Arab political life in general.
- Maidan: Can this political rise of the Gulf be attributed to money only?
Al-Khater: There is no doubt that the economic aspect is a very important element, if we take the international arena as an example, the most important political players are necessarily large economic players, and therefore it is difficult to separate the political and economic files when we talk about the areas of influence, but there is no doubt also that The economic aspect alone, without a vision to support it, is difficult to play an effective role.
- Maidan: After more than three years … why are we now witnessing an end to the siege and reconciliation?
Al-Khater: What we reached in the case of reconciliation at the Al-Ula summit was the result of a combination of a number of elements as well. There is no doubt that the highly appreciated Kuwaiti mediation from our side, and I think from other countries as well, played a large role and contributed effectively, but there are other factors as well. In the past year, for example; The existence of the Corona pandemic, the international economic crisis, there is no doubt that these factors led to a situation that we can call: a state of awareness and awareness that Arab action and joint Gulf action is a necessity in light of these crises the world is witnessing, in addition to a fact that no one can deny, And that is that the Gulf crisis does not have any single advantage when we speak at the level of the whole region, and therefore it was a loss situation for everyone, as the English expression says, as it was a loss for all parties.
- Maidan: The general climate suggests the end of the Gulf disputes .. So have the differences really ended, or is there no reason to prevent discussion about them?
Al-Khater: It is a very important step on the right path, but there is no doubt that this step must be followed by many other steps. We must focus on the common spaces, there are the outstanding economic issues, there are also health warnings, there are aspirations on the level of culture and education, we must build on these common spaces. Areas of disagreement and disagreement will always exist in any system by the way, if we look at the European Union for example, but the question is; What are the mechanisms by which we can manage our differences without contributing to influencing other vital files?
- Maidan: Most of the Qataris talk about the gains of the blockade .. How can the blockade be read in terms of the gains?
Al-Khater: At the outset, we must establish the fact that the blockade and the Gulf crisis were not our choice, and it could not be our preference. This fact must be acknowledged, but having said that; There is no doubt that Qatar dealt with this blockade as a reality, and the truth is that it rose to the level of the challenge and made a number of gains, including, for example, strengthening its role as the most important exporter of liquefied gas in the world.
We have increased our exports from 77 million tons annually to more than 110 million tons. This is the ambition that we will reach, and this represents about 33% of the global market for liquefied gas, this is an issue. There is also a diversification of supply chains for Qatar, which is another gain. Today, Qatar has become number one in the Arab region with regard to food security.
Acknowledging all these gains once again does not mean that the Gulf crisis is our preference, on the one hand, and on the other hand, it does not make us forget the human and societal impact on societies in the GCC countries.
- Maidan: What is the negative cost of the blockade on the State of Qatar?
Al-Khater: The losses have levels, of course there are losses at the societal level, joint work in general and the security of the whole region. If the talk is about economic losses for the State of Qatar, then there is no doubt that at the beginning of the blockade the cost of import was doubled from normal prices, but praise be to God, within months Qatar was able to return to normal prices, and the most important thing is that the state bore these costs so that it could not bear them. Who lives in the State of Qatar, and is not felt by the average consumer.
- Maidan: Based on previous experiences from 1996 until today, every crisis was worse than its predecessors .. So what prevents a recurrence of this crisis in a worse way?
Al-Khater: Guarantee is in fact joint and continuous action, and there was very clear talk regarding the founding document of the Cooperation Council, which provides for a number of mechanisms, including conflict resolution mechanisms. Therefore, based on these data, we are optimistic about the future. The discussion was also about trying to solve the outstanding issues and files on the bilateral level, and this is an important point, and I think it represents a fundamental change from what we saw, for example, after the end of the Gulf crisis in 2014.
- Maidan: The term “bilateral understandings” was repeated after the Al-Ula agreement … What is meant by it specifically?
Al-Khater: This means in a very practical way that we have passed the stage of the State of Qatar in front of the so-called Quartet countries, and this means that after the Al-Ula summit, technical committees will be established at the bilateral level between the different countries. If there are issues pending, they will be discussed at this binary level. If there is anything related to the whole Gulf countries or the GCC system, then it will be discussed within the framework of the Cooperation Council mechanisms.
- Maidan: Despite the Saudi enthusiasm, we are witnessing a coolness towards it from the rest of the countries .. Does this have anything to do with pending problems?
Al-Khater: In fact, what we want to focus on is the positive side. What we saw on the part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were very positive indicators, and a number of practical steps followed.
What we know is that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia represents the rest of the countries, and therefore we are reassured about this issue, and if there are issues raised in the media here and there, then our strategic decision is not to spoil the path of reconciliation and consider such issues as just marginal issues.
- Maidan: Mr. Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that restoring confidence with Qatar will take time, and he has set conditions for it, such as the position on Turkey and Iran .. So did the UAE officially inform you of these conditions? What is your comment on this statement?
Al-Khater: The United Arab Emirates did not discuss these issues, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the one who represented all countries in this debate, and the foreign policy of any country was not addressed. On the contrary, the discussion was about a set of principles, including the principle of non-interference.
But I come back to an important point also, we are certainly in the State of Qatar, since the state and the Qatari people were under siege in the blessed month of Ramadan, and we will need time to rebuild confidence, and this is an issue that must be drawn attention to.
The other point is regarding the relationship with Iran or the relationship with Turkey, of course they are excellent and good relations, and we also appreciate those who stood by our side during the Gulf crisis and the blockade of the State of Qatar, and this issue is known to everyone, but it must be noted that in the statements of the Minister of State for Affairs The Emirati Foreign Ministry itself also talked about their desire to have good and positive relations with Turkey, and this is something that makes us happy, because we want to see a state of agreement in the whole region. With regard to Iran, it is known that the United Arab Emirates has the largest share in the trade balance between the Gulf states and Iran, and therefore this is a good space and ground to build upon in order to reach a compromise formula.
- Maidan: Dropping issues as a state towards the states parties was among the provisions of the Al-Ula Declaration .. Does this apply to Qatari individuals who file cases because of their harm?
Al-Khater: Most of the cases brought by the State of Qatar in the various international organizations are related to procedures on the ground, and if these measures are lifted, they have no legal basis. Thus, the natural result is, first, to freeze these cases, then to cancel them.
This is with regard to government cases, but if there are individual cases, they are private cases.
- Maidan: After the Foreign Minister affirmed in the Al-Jazeera meeting that there is no change in the relationship with Iran, can Qatar play a mediating role to reduce tension between Iran and the Gulf states in the coming period?
Al-Khater: At the end of 2019 and early 2020, a crisis flared up between the United States of America and Iran, and unfortunately, brotherly Iraq was a victim of this crisis. At the time, the State of Qatar played an active role with a number of other countries to defuse the crisis, and praise be to God, this matter was accomplished.
Therefore, we are ready to play such a role in the future. But one of the golden rules for entering the State of Qatar in any mediation is the invitation of the different parties, because if there is no invitation from the different parties, the elements of the success of the mediation are not present.
Perhaps Qatar’s advantage over a number of countries is its ability to speak to all parties while realizing that the State of Qatar has no interest in such mediation.
- Maidan: Could the coming period witness major economic projects between Qatar and Saudi Arabia cementing this reconciliation?
Al-Khater: We must not forget that the Cooperation Council is an organization that also has a list of economic projects. The talk was mainly about activating such projects and such economic cooperation, and what we have seen so far are very promising signs. We do not see what prevents such a occurrence in the future, but I think the priority will be for projects related to the Cooperation Council as it is.
- Maidan: How can Gulf youth use this positive atmosphere to move beyond the past and share in creating a future for the region?
Al-Khater: One of the issues that I do not forget at the beginning of the blockade, in the first months and I was at the time in the United Kingdom, was a plastic art exhibition in which plastic artists from all the Gulf states participated. Their message at the time was that art transcends politics. In fact, we found many Gulf youths’ awareness and awareness that may have exceeded the awareness of many veterans in politics, and this does not mean that there are sectors that have already been affected.
We say to these sectors: Strategic options in life must be linked to constants, not variables, and in politics there are many variables, so we must focus on the common spaces between us in general, and I think that the future, God willing, holds a lot for the Gulf youth.
- Maidan: Can Saudi Arabia contribute to the success of the World Cup?
Al-Khater: Regarding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, first there is the Saudi national team, which is one of the few Arab teams that managed to reach the World Cup, and we hope to see them in Doha. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Saudi public in general is among the most enthusiastic Arab fans, and we hope for their participation, especially since this tournament will be the first major sports tournament after the “Covid-19” pandemic, God willing, and I do not want to devote my speech to a people One Arab without another, because our motto since we obtained the right to organize the World Cup is that this World Cup is for all Arabs, and it is a message from the Arabs to the world that we have capabilities and energies that can dazzle the world, and we are not just areas of conflict and wars, and we have a lot to offer to this world.
- Maidan: There are accusations on the communication platforms (from some) of non-Qatari media professionals and a section of residents in the State of Qatar that they have invested in the crisis and that they are among its causes .. What is your comment?
Al-Khater: One of the gains in this crisis was the bond of society in Qatar, and when I say in Qatar I mean Qataris and residents, and we see that was clearly reflected in all the speeches of His Highness the Emir of the State of Qatar, whether outside or within the country, so he does not mention the citizens except the residents as well. We do not want to lose this gain in the coming period. The role of professional media professionals is a very appreciated role, and on the contrary, it is a role we are proud and proud of in the State of Qatar.