The search for a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis has intensified as Turkey’s foreign minister landed in Qatar while the UN voiced fears over growing humanitarian concerns in the region. The arrival of Mevlut Cavusoglu was confirmed by Qatari state media, which said Turkey’s top diplomat had praised the “wise and calm manner” with which Doha had approached the current crisis. He travelled with Turkey’s economy minister Nihat Zeybekci and the pair met their counterparts Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani on arrival in Doha.
Cavusoglu is expected to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani while in Doha before potentially travelling to regional powerbroker Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia has the potential and capability to solve this crisis as a wise state and big brother of the region and also as a major actor,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said yesterday. “We aim to involve all actors in this process.”
Riyadh is one of several countries which has imposed a political and economic “blockade” on Qatar, in protest at Doha’s support for Islamist extremist groups as well as over its ties to Shiite Iran.
Qatar strongly denies the charges and claims neighbouring countries are trying to interfere with its foreign policy. Before heading to Doha, Cavusoglu said that “if the programme allows I will also visit Saudi Arabia”, in quotes reported by the Anadolu news agency. “It is very useful to take into account the opinions and suggestions of Saudi Arabia.”
He added that the situation “was causing great discomfort for everybody” especially during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Turkey is one of Qatar’s strongest allies and earlier this week committed to deploying troops at its in the emirate. The diplomatic push continued elsewhere.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has described the decision by Gulf states to cut political and economic ties with Qatar as “inhumane” — is expected to hold phone talks with US President Donald Trump in the coming days. In addition, the Turkish president’s spokesman said a trilateral meeting between Ankara, Paris and Doha was planned.
This is in addition to mediation efforts already launched by Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah. The United Nations’ secretary-general called for the Gulf countries to find a peaceful solution to the row. A spokesman for Antonio Guterres said he expressed his “full support for Kuwait’s efforts to de-escalate tensions and promote an effective dialogue”.
The planned talks follow discussions on Tuesday between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In Geneva, concern surrounding the humanitarian situation grew Wednesday, with the intervention of the UN human rights chief.
“I am alarmed about the possible impact on many people’s human rights in the wake of the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his first comments on the crisis.
“It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation,” he added. The decision to isolate Qatar had led to fears that thousands of families in the Gulf would be split apart. As well as economic and political ties, the Gulf states also ordered Qataris out within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens.
Amnesty International has warned of “heartbreak and fear” being suffered by ordinary people in the region. It also accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of “toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents”.
Bahrain and the UAE have also banned expressions of sympathy for Qatar. Manama announced yesterday that it had detained a citizen for sympathising with Qatar on social media.
There have also been fears of food shortages in Qatar — so far not realised — and a disruption of imports needed for a number of capital projects in the gas-rich emirate.
Qatar is receiving food deliveries from Turkey, Iran and Morocco among others. The 2022 World Cup host is also in the middle of building huge capital projects worth an estimated $200 billion-plus, many of which rely on suppliers in the region.
Doha-based airline Qatar Airways has been banned from using the airspace of neighbouring countries since measures were announced on June 5. However, the carrier said services were largely unaffected by the decision.
“Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances,” said chief executive Akbar Al- Baker. Although the crisis remains a diplomatic one, some have voiced fears it could lead to an armed conflict. Yesterday, Qatar announced it was withdrawing its troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border.