Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Following the sudden decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE to collectively withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday citing security concerns, Doha announced it would not take similar action against the three states.
In an official statement, Qatar’s cabinet expressed “regret and surprise” at the decision of the three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, saying it “has nothing to do with the interests, security and stability of GCC peoples but [is] rather a difference in position on GCC issues.”
The statement affirmed Qatar’s commitment to GCC values, adding that Doha was “absolutely keen on brotherly ties between the Qatari people and fellow brotherly GCC peoples, which prevent Qatar from taking a similar procedure of recalling its ambassadors.”
The cabinet also reiterated Qatar’s “continued commitment to the principles on which the GCC was based and the implementation of its obligation in line with the GCC states’ agreement on preserving and maintaining their security and stability.”
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE announced that they had taken their decision to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha “to protect their security and stability” and called on Qatar to take immediate steps to comply with the GCC joint security agreement signed in Riyadh on November 23, 2013.
The agreement called on GCC member states not to “meddle” in regional affairs or support any individual or organization that threatens regional security and stability, including political parties and “hostile” media outlets.
The decision to withdraw the ambassadors came after eight hours of heated negotiations during a GCC Ministerial Council meeting on Tuesday. The joint statement issued by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE confirmed that “big attempts were made to persuade the State of Qatar of the importance to take the necessary measures to put the Riyadh agreement into effect . . . However all these efforts have not resulted, with great regret, in the consent of the State of Qatar.”
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa affirmed that Qatar’s failure to abide by the GCC joint security agreement was not just a threat to Bahraini national security, but to the security of all GCC states. He said the position of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with the other GCC states—Oman and Kuwait—ran parallel to Bahrain’s position on confronting terrorism, particularly following the recent bombings in Manama.
Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan, Dubai’s Police Chief, said Qatar had crossed “red lines” and that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE’s withdrawal of their ambassadors from Doha came as part of an official expression of dissatisfaction with the GCC states’ policies.
“The Qataris should be alert about their policies that go against national and Gulf Arab security,” he said.
He added that some of Qatar’s recent “provocative” actions and policies had been a source of concern to neighboring states, prompting the GCC states to take this decision.
Khalfan also said Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE’s decision to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar was made with the agreement of Kuwait and Oman. He said: “The GCC position is unified in terms of official dissatisfaction with the Qatari policies. Both Kuwait and Oman have the same reservations about the Qataris’ support for the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups.”
Egypt, which designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group in December 2013 and has previously criticized Qatar for “interfering” in Egyptian state affairs, summoned its ambassador to Doha back to Cairo in early February.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that it had no intention to return its ambassador to Qatar, adding that Wednesday’s move by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar proved that Doha was in a state of dispute with most Arab states. Cairo called on Qatar to “realign its position” with Arab states’ common interests and priorities.
Additional reporting by Huda Saleh, Ahmed Eissa and Badr Al-Qahtani.