Paris – France is maintaining its “behind the scenes” role in the Gulf crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt over Doha’s funding and backing of terrorism because the French government believes that the residents of the Gulf “can solve their problems by themselves.”
French diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that French diplomacy is “active on different levels in order to deliver messages and push for decisions that may help contain the escalation and restore dialogue.”
France is operating on two levels. The first is led by President Emmanuel Macron, who is in “constant contact” with Gulf leaders, revealed his circles. They said that he has twice contacted Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. He also hosted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at the Elysee Paris and had three days ago contacted the Emir of Qatar.
The French leader has also discussed the Gulf crisis with King of Morocco Mohammed VI during his visit to al-Rabat and his contacts with Arab and western officials.
Macron intends to also address the Gulf crisis during Friday’s G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, said the presidency.
The French circles did not elaborate on the “angle” in which he will bring up this issue, but it is likely that he will head into it when he discusses the war on terrorism and its financing. The funding of terrorism is included on the summit agenda.
Macron understands the importance of the Gulf crisis because of its impact on the stability of the Gulf, on the war on terrorism and on the special tries that Paris enjoys with all Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, stressed Elysee sources.
They added that “France is prepared to present all forms of support”, especially to the Kuwait mediation, which is the only “official” mediation in the crisis.
The second level of the French efforts over the crisis lies is being led by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Foreign Ministry sources aid that he is “in contact” with his Gulf counterparts, noting that he recently visited Cairo to tackle the dispute with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. He had held similar talks with Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir, UAE FM Abdullah bin Zayed, Qatari FM Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and various Kuwaiti officials. The crisis was also discussed by Le Drian with Iranian FM Mohammed Javad Zarif during his latest visit to Paris.
In addition to being active on the Gulf front, Paris has also been in contact with European and American officials. It believes that “Washington has a role to play” in ending the crisis.
Since the eruption of the crisis with Qatar, the four Arab states made a list of demands to Doha to accept as a condition to end their boycott.
French government spokesperson Christophe Castaner said that Doha “had to respond to the demands,” but Paris has at the same time said that it did want to take sides in the dispute because it enjoys good ties with all those concerned.
It therefore is primarily interested in “containing the escalation through refraining from pouring fuel on the fire and taking the necessary measures that can ease the tensions.”
Le Drian intends in the upcoming days to “intensify” his contacts to resolve the problem, but no concrete plan has been set in place yet.