Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Gulf states are confident the diplomatic dispute between Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will be resolved soon, due to the leading role being played in mediating the dispute by Saudi Arabia, the UAE’s foreign minister told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.
Speaking on the sidelines of a two-day conference in Riyadh to discuss regional issues, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Qarqash said that despite the tensions arising from the dispute with Qatar, “everyone is optimistic” that a solution will be found, in light of the “wise and patient” leadership of Saudi Arabia, and “especially the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.
The dispute escalated in March when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain all withdrew their ambassadors from Doha over its alleged interference in the sovereign affairs of other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members.
Qarqash added that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to mediate the dispute gave the countries involved “a substantial opportunity” to solve their differences.
“[King Abdullah] possesses the vision to anticipate changes in the Arab region, the consequences of disorder, and the lack of stability. He wants a strong GCC, one forming the backbone of Arab efforts based on moderation. For these reasons, we are confident he will lead us all to safety.”
Speaking of the current crisis in Iraq, he said Gulf efforts to help fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the country constituted neither the sidelining of the Sunni population in the country nor a toleration of Iranian interference in its affairs.
He said Gulf countries would not allow the return of sectarian policies which marginalize Iraq’s Sunni population, saying “we distinguish between the Sunni population in Iraq and ISIS, and we know which is which.”
He also dismissed as “naive” claims that the Gulf role in the international US-led coalition against the extremist group would be limited to bankrolling military operations.
He said Gulf countries were adopting “flexible policies” in the fight against ISIS. “We can’t all of a sudden say that Gulf countries can impose their views [on the rest of the coalition],” he said. “This is a matter of give and take; the group of countries and blocs [in the coalition] all have their own interests, and we all are cooperating in rejecting terrorism. We are well aware that we won’t be able to get 100 percent of what we want during this operation.”
The UAE in particular was convinced of the need for a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism, he said, because “it threatens all Arab countries, whether Egypt or Yemen or Libya, not just Iraq and Syria.” He added that “we [the Gulf states] acknowledge the importance of flexibility in our dealings [with our partners in the coalition], because the coalition is both comprehensive and international.”
Launching the conference in Riyadh on Tuesday was Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. During his opening speech he said Saudi Arabia was committed to helping Iraq overcome its current crisis.
He said: “Owing to our responsibilities toward our brothers [in Iraq], Saudi Arabia has provided 500 million US dollars for humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people, who have become the victims of terrorist groups. We will not spare any effort in helping the Iraqi government achieve security and stability and stop foreign interference [in its affairs].”
Speaking of the current situation in Yemen, Prince Abdulaziz said that events in the country threatened the entire region, quoting UN Special Adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar, who recently said the level of unrest in the country was at its most serious since the beginning of the political transition process in 2011.
He said: “These awful events [in Yemen] are making us [Gulf countries] increasingly worried about what is being done [by the Houthis] including clear threats to the Yemeni nation, delaying the political and development processes, and the danger it [the Houthi movement] poses not just to Yemen but to the whole region. We therefore ask the international community to bear its responsibilities toward the awful events in Yemen and confront the threats and dangers it is currently facing, as well as acknowledge the importance of continuing the final stages of the Gulf Initiative, represented in the drafting of a new constitution and in holding to presidential and parliamentary elections.”