Presenter: At a time when the voice of wisdom during the Gulf Crisis was absent, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was the voice of wisdom. He is a Knight ranked Minister and a Minister ranked Knight. Your Excellency, I don't want to prolong this introduction as I would need a lot of words to express my personal appreciation, and the appreciation of all those who live in Qatar, for the role you have played in scaling the Gulf Crisis, putting it within its natural framework, and refuting the lies and allegations of the blockading countries against the State of Qatar. Yesterday he was in Rome, today he is Doha, and tomorrow he will head to Kuwait. He is a man who spends most of his life in a plane than on the ground. We welcome you. Now, we listen to an interesting and exciting lecture from His Excellency.
HE the Foreign Minister: I would like to start by thanking the Arab Research Center for Research & Policy Studies for hosting and organizing this conference. I would also like to thank the audience for their attendance and dedication of their time to listening to us and participating in this event. I am pleased to take part in this lecture and hope you will benefit from it and add to the knowledge you already have. I am sure that the lectures that preceded us over the past few days have been influential and we, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will benefit greatly from the academic views on the situation in the Gulf region.
First, I will start by talking in general about the situation in our two regions, the small region being the Gulf region and the larger region being the Arab region. It is clear that there are many factors in the regional system that have led to the disruption of these organizations, whether they are small regional organizations such as the GCC or larger ones such as the Arab League, OIC and others. The disruption of these organizations and regional systems is caused by many factors, such as the humanitarian disasters in the region; whether in the Syrian crisis or the crisis in Yemen, or the crises experienced by Iraq and the ongoing events in Libya, Somalia and many other countries in the region. Unfortunately, whenever the Middle East is mentioned, humanitarian disasters and tragedies are reported and we have not heard positive news about them.
There are cross-border terrorist movements that do not recognize our borders or the limits set by the current world order. There are differences between stable and semi-stable countries in their understanding of the concept of collective security, and its impact on the exploitation of states and the creation of situations of interference in the affairs of other states. The differences have also led to a sharp polarization in the region and at the state level. As a result, there have been many repercussions both in the state and in the region. The negative role played by the media in the Arab world is known to all. Unfortunately it is evidence of abuse of freedom, and that freedom is only a formality. It is used by regimes or governments to direct certain messages or regional agendas. Technological developments in social media and the abuse of these platforms have created electronic armies that create public illusions that are unfounded. I was at a talk prior to this lecture on some studies that were carried out by some researchers, that were presented during your conference, their studies reflect the correct measure of these electronic tools used in this war. For example some of the figures that appeared on social media platforms reflect the number of 5 million and in reality there are only 1000, 5000 or 180 thousand, and only 150 are real people. This reflects the images that come to us and our minds through these electronic armies, which can only be directed by governments or by organizations to achieve specific goals within their agendas.
There are reasons behind all these factors and actions, which are basically:
First, the absence of wisdom: Today wisdom is not present in the region. There are those who claim wisdom as a mask to try and market stability, but when we look at the actions on the ground there is no wisdom. There is political recklessness by various forces in the region that, unfortunately, manipulate people's destinies.
Second: there is a major problem with regional and international organizations, and the absence of a clear mechanism in all of them. They lack the tools for grievances, for settling disputes and the enforcement of its decisions as a regional organization. This is one of the reasons why preventative diplomacy or peaceful means of resolving disputes are missing in the region, which leads to a state of violence.
The results of these factors have become apparent to all of us in the region. There has been interference in the internal affairs of countries under the pretext of stability or the impact of what is happening within these countries on the collective security system. The collective security argument is used by many countries as a reason for intervention, or as a claim to providing and supporting security in these countries. When in fact the true reasons are for guidance, serving regional agendas and achieving the goals of the power game in the region. Today, this state of intervention has created a state of polarization, that has led to regional alignments, and unfortunately the creation of axes policies that are either good axes or evil axes or other kinds of axes. Therefore, there are proxy wars that are ravaging the region from every side.
Unfortunately, due to this interference, that is polarization within the state itself, that has supported either systems, parties or other groups; under the pretext of stability and preservation of collective security. Therefore, there is no chance for any reforms in these countries. The people of these countries have lost hope that these reforms truly are a step towards a better future for them. In the absence of hope all we can see today is violence, extremism and terrorism. It is possible to address this phenomenon in a temporary manner, but that would have greater consequences in the future, as it will produce greater extremism.
As for the region's crises, there are many. I mentioned Syria, Libya, Iraq, and of course the Palestinian crisis, which has been ongoing for tens of years, and we are yet to find just solutions to them. As I mentioned earlier, there are common factors in all these crises. Whether they are all applicable, or some of them are applicable to certain crises these factors exist. The existence of all these crises, with all these factors, does not make us overlook the undergoing crisis in the Gulf region. The unjust blockade on the State of Qatar, which is not an isolated crisis in the region, but rather part of the region's context and part of the game of power. Of course, then the question is why Qatar? And why this crisis?
There are many allegations. The media has played a very negative role in this crisis. Social media has played a major role in distorting our image as the people of the GCC in front of the whole world. All that has happened in this crisis is based on false accusations, and everyone knows that. Today, these questions regarding the allegations have ended. Now everyone is wondering about the real reasons for this crisis. Qatar differs from the rest of the GCC. Qatar is an active player in the region. It has its own policy, that may be independent or different from that of its neighbors' in the GCC. The differences should be looked at as healthy differences. In various civilized organizations, difference is a healthy phenomenon, and is not considered to be a basis for controversy. The European Union is viewed as an esteemed organization despite members running their own national policies and having a unified foreign policy. They do not agree on everything, but there are basic rules that everyone agrees to.
The State of Qatar's vision differs from the visions of the countries of the region. It a progressive vision centered on human development. Qatar ranks first in the world whether it be in human development indicators, peace indicators, security indicators or competitiveness and higher education. On top of all these indicators Qatar has resources. It is a global energy center, and states rely heavily on Qatar. Qatar is a key partner and trusted channel. If we look at the global economic and industrial forces in the world such as Japan or Korea, both are of the twenty largest economies in the world who rely on Qatar for 25% to 30% of their energy. The United Kingdom relies on the State of Qatar for 25% of its natural gas for energy. Poland and Italy have major relations in the energy sector with the State of Qatar. Among these many countries, is one of the blockading countries, the United Arab Emirate, who Qatar has continued, to this day, to supply energy to, despite all the measures taken by them against the State of Qatar. Qatar continues to respect the charters and contracts it signed with the United Arab Emirates, and does not confuse political relations with economic relations and does not take measures that may directly affect people. The issue of energy is an important factors in people's livelihood.
The State of Qatar is set to host the World Cup in 2022, which is an achievement for the Arab world. I mentioned that the Arab world is crisis zone. All the world hears on the news about the Middle East is regarding wars, deaths or humanitarian crises and disasters. Qatar wants the Arab world to be remembered positively, and have the world form a global public opinion that is positive and bring together the people of the world, and not just the region. The State of Qatar has made educational and humanitarian contributions to 100 countries. All these factors make Qatar a successful country. Thanks to Allah, we are blessed with resources, and many countries have the same resources and most of them have abused them. In the State of Qatar, we believe that these resources must be used in the best way and serve the people of Qatar and all who live on its land. We also believe we should be a positive factor for all countries of the world and humanity. When the State of Qatar is a state at this level of success, it will be a factor worthy of attracting any of the axes the region is living today. The State of Qatar, in principle, rejects the policy of axes and policy partisanism towards a certain matter. We always call for dialogue with all parties. The State of Qatar always avoids being part of this policy in order to have an open space for civilizational peace to happen around the table of dialogue. When a successful state exists within the policy of axes it is best to form an addition to this axis, despite these axes being depended on countries that do not have the factors and elements that exist in the State of Qatar, and are a burden on these axes. The State of Qatar can contribute to regional peace, become independent from these axes, and have a clear policy to invite all parties to engage in dialogue.
All the situations we are going through today and every political crisis has a life cycle. The region has been in this life cycle since 2011, almost seven years. At each stage of this life cycle there are different players with varying roles and importances. In this cycle, whether it is at the end or in the middle, there are different players who each have different expectations. One day this cycle will end and a new one will begin, but those who want to find a fixed place in all the stages of the life cycle, whether in political situations, crises or other situations, must focus on upholding their values. This is what the State of Qatar is trying to achieve; to find an equation that protects the interests of the state, but does not give up its core values. We believe that the State of Qatar has avoided being a negative factor in the region and has always called for dialogue. We have to start with ourselves first. The State of Qatar believes that these differences will not be solved on the battlefield. There will be no military solution. Everyone says we want a political solution for Syria, Yemen and Libya, but we have not seen any genuine steps taken towards these political crises.
The region is in dire need for a clear regional security dialogue that sets the parameters of the region for the next stage, and results in principles governing the relations of these countries' equal rights and duties. There is no difference between a big country and small country, and there is no opportunity for larger states to blackmail smaller states, or for small states to use their influence improperly towards the organization. There should be clear mechanisms for grievances and clear dispute resolutions to avoid future crises. If the region is not aware that we need dialogue, wars will continue in the region until this awareness is reached.
Many regions of the world have had similar experiences. Take Europe for example, millions of victims in world wars and then finally they realized that the key is dialogue and creating a mechanism for cooperation. It starts with cooperation in a positive situation and then positive unity, which is what we see as the European Union today, that is a system that attracts nations to join them. We hope that one day our region will, at least, have a successful model for basic cooperation and cooperation to achieve our interests as a starting point, but there needs to be starting point.
Question: I have come from Kuwait where we have prepared and decorated for the wedding, and usually in Kuwait a wedding gift is given to the hosts. What is Qatar going to offer the wedding in Kuwait?
HE the Foreign Minister: Brother Zafar, with regards to your comparing the event in Kuwait to a wedding. We hope Kuwait is always blessed with weddings. As for the married couple, let's change the analogy as we are neither the bride or the groom. With regards to the Gulf Summit, Qatar has always been the attacked party in this crisis, the party to continually call for dialogue, the party to have the mediation of His Highness Sheikh Sabah in every talk and the party that cooperates with this mediation. This cooperation, with regards to the mediation, will continue. For us, not as a government, but as the people of Qatar know the role Sheikh Sabah has played in this crisis, and everyone who lives on this land appreciates his role and will continue to support him. Therefore, the State of Kuwait does not need the State of Qatar's offering for this "wedding" because we will always support Kuwait and cooperate with it.
The process of mediation comes first. The mediator is not asking anything from any state or party in this crisis beyond the limits of reason. The State of Qatar, within the framework that will preserve its sovereignty and respect international law, is ready to discuss everything. We have discussed, several times, before that no state has the right to demand things of another state, but putting forward concerns is acceptable. If these concerns are understandable they will concern us too. Qatar is concerned about the true definition of collective security, that does not misinterpret the concept and does not interfere with internal affairs or policies of these states. The State of Qatar respects the sovereignty of all these states, and on that basis Qatar is fully prepared and is looking forward to this summit. As we said before we are in this majlis and if they want to come they are more than welcome, and if they want to leave, that is their decision. However, the State of Qatar will remain, and the GCC will remain the most important system to us.
Question: Mohammed Mahmoud Kawar, Police College – Department of Research and Studies. Your Excellency, you were well versed in the international diplomatic arena six months prior to the Gulf Crisis. Now, you have talked about the principles governing dialogue and urgent need for it in the regional security dialogue. Will these principles be among the priorities and program of the summit tomorrow in Kuwait? And what are the summit's objectives for the people of the region and the Arab region as a whole?
HE the Foreign Minister: Of course, in any negotiation there must be set principles to base these negotiations on, otherwise these negotiations will turn into a never ending spiral. We in the State of Qatar stand by the principles of the GCC's Charter, which we all agreed on. We also stand by all principles that respect international conventions and state sovereignty, that are applied and not only written. We are ready to discuss these concerns that are put forward as claims by the blockading countries and refute them all. Six months into the blockade on the Qatari people that is based on baseless allegations and we are yet to see their basis. If they have basis to their claims let them present them to us, as we have expressed our readiness from the start.
Question: Hessa Al-Thani, Secretary General of the League of Arab States for Humanitarian Affairs. I'd like to thank the organizers for this conference and this special session. Thank you, Sheikh Mohammed for what you have done and your distinguished performance both quantitatively and qualitatively. Your Excellency, you described the humanitarian situation in the region as a very special situation as it is overwhelmed with humanitarian disasters. There are humanitarian disasters that have returned in the region, that had previously been extinct such as famine and epidemics in Yemen. This crisis has affected the performance of humanitarian and charitable organizations, and Arab donor countries, especially the Gulf states. This is reflected in its performance as a public organization and Gulf organizations including Qatari organizations. There is no cooperation and coordination. Unfortunately, the performance of Qatari organizations was also affected by the claims of terrorism. Your Excellency, do you see any signs of restoring the performance of charitable and humanitarian organizations to their previous status? Sadly, we hoped the situation would be better. As you know, more children are in need of funding, the famines have increased and the number of displaced people has increased within the same cities. I hope there will be a gesture made towards the situation. As we all know, the humanitarian situation is negatively affected by political changes, and political changes take credit thanks to humanitarian efforts. Thank you.
HE the Foreign Minister: Regarding the question asked by Sheikha Hessa about the impact of the Gulf Crisis on humanitarian work in the region. The Gulf Crisis has an impact on all regional security issues in the region and not just the humanitarian issues, that are the cornerstone of this concern in our region. This crisis has affected coordination and collective action in our region, which was considered an added value to humanitarian action, but it has not affected the State of Qatar. Qatar continues its assistance and humanitarian work, whether in Gaza, Syria or Yemen. There is a different situation and the aid is still being allowed or denied, but in all the countries that are accessible, Qatar has spared no effort to reach them.
With regards to the inclusion of international organizations and the impact on their work. Their list does not affect anything. There is a respected international law, and a United Nations with clear procedural process for including terrorist organizations and terrorism supporting organizations. The criteria of these countries for listing these organization is unware to us. It is certain that they are not internationally recognized, since most of these organizations have been partners with and work alongside the United Nations as observers and have participated in many projects.
Question: What are the expected accomplishments or outcomes of the Kuwait Summit on Tuesday? What is expected in light of the political crisis and in the absence of reducing the escalation?
HE the Foreign Minister: Of course, it is very important that the GCC stays alive. This in itself is important. His Highness Sheikh Sabah has made efforts to keep this organization in place by calling for this meeting. This meeting, that is considered a dream for the people of the Gulf, will be achieved. It will begin tomorrow with the ministerial meeting and the summit. Qatar vies this in itself is a positive step, but the summit is supposed to produce a clear mechanism to put an end to this crisis, which has lasted six months.
Blockading a Gulf State without reasons suddenly is unacceptable behavior. Now these countries' problem is not with the government of Qatar, but rather with the people of Qatar. Unfortunately, for the first time a dispute has sunken to this level. This is what we wanted to avoid and contain from the start, but we didn't get a response. Now we rely on the wisdom of His Highness Sheikh Sabah, and we hope that these countries will listen to the voice of reason and come to the table to discuss the points of disagreement between us. We hope there will be a collective agreement committed by all, and Qatar will be the first to welcome one.
Question: I would like to know your opinion on what is happening in Yemen. the position on the ground and the impact of the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen.
HE the Foreign Minister: Regarding Yemen. I cannot tell you much because we do not have information. The information we have is what you see in the media. Qatari armed forced were present and involved in the coalition when there was a threat to the security of Saudi Arabia. This was part of Qatar's duty, as part of the GCC, to ensure there is no threat to any of the member countries. There was also a political task in bringing together the parties for the return of the legitimate government to Sana'a, in order to exercise its functions and to revive the results of the National Dialogue Conference, whose results were endorsed by all Yemeni faction.
Today the situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate and there are humanitarian crises, as stated by HE the envoy of the Secretary-General of the Arab League. With regards to the humanitarian and children situation in Yemen, we hope that humanitarian action will be separated from military actions taking place there. We do not want these tragedies to be used to pressure other parties. We did not see a discussion of the Yemeni issue, as it was the efforts of His Highness the Emir of Kuwait last year. We hope that this state of deadlock will be broken and that the parties will be invited back to the table and that this issue will be resolved.
Question: Are Iraq stability vital to the stability of the Arabian Gulf? Is Qatar ready to invest in a new Arab-Iraqi investment project?
HE the Foreign Minister: The State of Qatar sees Iraq as an integral part of the Arab world, in all its spectrums, and with all the races that exist in it. The Republic of Iraq is an Arab country and is part of it. It is certain that the stability of Iraq is considered stability for all the GCC countries.
We share borders, history and culture with them.
As for the efforts undertaken by the Iraqi government, there have been victories in the face of Daesh in some areas. In order to liberalize Iraq, these efforts need to be perused, and need political, development and humanitarian action. The Iraqi government continues to have communications and cooperation with us. The State of Qatar looks forward to being supportive and contribute to the reconstruction process, because the stability and security of Iraq is an integral part of our own security.
Question: Was there a strategy in place to ensure the Gulf Summit was held on time?
HE the Foreign Minister: Qatar received an invitation to attend the summit without any pretexts, and we welcomed the invitation.
Question: The GCC as an organization has failed to deal with this crisis and it has failed to take a position on this crisis. The crisis itself is a clear departure from the Charter of the GCC, and you are aware of this. The GCC is nothing but a club for the leaders of the Arabian Gulf. I apologize for the description, but this is the reality of what is happening. It has always been this was and continue to be this way, and remaining part of it is beneath the people of the Gulf. My question is as long as Qatar and yourself, realize the ineffectiveness of this crisis or this organization, and that its Secretary-General has not issued a single statement concerning this crisis, does Qatar have a new vision (I hope the relations are restored, but I personally believe they won't) for this organization? I am sorry to over explain the question, but it is very important to me. The Gulf Crisis and the blockade on Qatar is a direct departure from the Charter of the GCC, which is in terms of international law, is the withdrawal of these countries from the organization. Saudi Arabia withdrew, Bahrain withdrew, what's left of the GCC?! Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, so this is a departure from the charter, right?
HE the Foreign Minister: Our brother has expressed his opinion, and we respect that. True, we noticed the absence of the GCC as an organization during this crisis. Does that mean we, as countries, should forget the organization, and be the demolishing factor in the end of this organization? Qatar decided from the very first day that if there should be any error in the organization it won't be because of Qatar. Qatar will continue to preserve the GCC until its end. Regardless of changing people in charge, the organization will remain. The ineffectiveness of the organization is not a reason or motivation for the State of Qatar to leave the organization, and cause the organization to fall. Qatar's exit would be a breach of the Gulf contract, and thus the system will collapse. As for the new form of the system, yes, as a factor of trust, there is no trust. The level of trust between the GCC countries is not as it once was. Will this trust come back after a meeting and agreement? It won't, we would be fooling ourselves to believe that. What determines the nature of this relationship is dependent on an agreement of the working system between these countries in the future. Yes, we are not the European Union. Yes, we do not have clear mechanism like the European Union and others. The European Union may have been once this week and acquired many mechanisms to reach where it is today. We hope that the GCC will take on a new form and rise to the aspiration of the people of the Gulf. It is true that it is a slow process, as it's been going on for more than thirty years (thirty-seven!).
Question: Since the beginning of the crisis, several Western figures have been in communication with the Gulf capitals. We heard from Trump, Tillerson's position, the German and British foreign secretaries. My question is, can you now confirm that the way towards a solution or perhaps Gulf reconciliation lies within the Gulf house? And are all parties now ready to take advantage of the summit to find a Gulf solution without waiting or opening the door to external pressure?
HE the Foreign Minister: Of course, I can only speak on behalf of Qatar and not on behalf of the other states. The State of Qatar has committed itself to communicating with His High the Emir of the State of Kuwait. Qatar has committed itself to the Kuwait mediation. Unfortunately, we found a campaign defaming Qatar, we found all officials of these countries took their plane and left. Therefore, it is Qatar's right to paint the right picture of itself, reveal the facts and defend itself against the demonization campaign against it.
Now this campaign generated interest in this crisis. This resulted in Western officials taking the crisis seriously as it affects their agendas. It is true that today the Gulf Crisis is within the Gulf countries, geographically, but its effects extend to the West's interest. The interests of these Western countries, whether they are military operations, economic cooperation between the GCC countries, agreements between the GCC countries, and thus they want to see a solution to the Gulf Crisis. We hope to meet tomorrow at the Gulf house, under the patronage of, the main mediator, the Emir of Kuwait. We hope that we do not need a Western party to influence a solution, and that the solution will come from among ourselves, because their solution will only last temporarily.
Question: What is the strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the list of 59 wanted individuals, especially citizens?
HE the Foreign Minister: Regarding the list. The list does not present anything legal and international. The framework of this list are the countries that issues it and will not go beyond it.
As for those affected, every person has the right to demand his right not to be named or to challenge such actions. The state will provide him with all the support, but legally the list does not represent anything to us as the government of Qatar. The list doesn't represent anything to international organizations or other countries of the world, it is worth nothing.
Question: Is the statement of Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, that the crisis with Qatar is small consistent with Qatar's policy changes at the beginning?
HE the Foreign Minister: Qatar, does not know how the Saudi Foreign Minister views the scale of the crisis. However, for Qatar the crisis in the Gulf today is no a "very small" one. First of all the crisis affects regional security, and anyone who sees it as a small crisis is not given the issue of regional security its due importance. Second, when our people are directly affected it is not a small crisis. The Qatari people are directly affected, whether in their studies or their families or other deprivations of rights because they "Qatari". This is racial discrimination against a particular nationality, and is unacceptable and internationally rejected in the 21st century. This is not a small problem, it is a big problem that the people of the blockading countries are also affected. How their people view their needs is up to them and their evaluation. The issue of reducing the crisis is when the crisis is within the limits of international law and a boycott without further measures. Let it be a small policy crisis, but to take actions against the Qatari people, then it is not a small crisis and will not be one.
Question: Another question. What exactly is America's role in the Gulf Crisis?
HE the Foreign Minister: In our opinion, there is a strategic relationship between the United States and all GCC countries. There is no special relationship with the State of Qatar or Saudi Arabia or others. The value of this relationship lies in the unity of this organization, and not in every country. Therefore, it is very important that this organization remains coherent for there to be benefits to this strategic relationship between the United States of America and the GCC countries. The State of Qatar has a position in this relationship as it hosts the military base, the command center for international alliance's operations and there many activities taking place in Doha. This crisis has directly impacted international efforts to combat terrorism, thus the United State has played a very active role to stop the escalation of this crisis and to find a solution. There have been several attempts by the United States that were never responded to. There was a proposal by the US Secretary of States, when he visited the region at the beginning of the crisis. He presented a roadmap and it was rejected. The US President invited all leaders to Camp David to engage in dialogue with each other and that invitation was not responded to. There are ongoing efforts to prevent this crisis from affecting regional security, which is an important factor for the United States. Therefore, there is continued communication and coordination between the United States and all GCC countries, not only the State of Qatar.
Question: How do you see the level of attendance at the GCC summit like? Will the Gulf Crisis be on the agenda? If not, how will it be overcome? Is it possible that the GCC will continue to function as it is or is there an opportunity to develop this organization?
HE the Foreign Minister: We can only speak of our own level of attendance. We, the Ministerial Council, will attend the tomorrow and His Highness the Emir will attend the Summit.
The agenda has not been presented to us, but if the Gulf Crisis, which is the main issue in the region, is not mentioned in the paper then it is sure to be discussed in the meeting as it doesn't have to be only on paper.
Thank you, Foreign Minister.