Qatar Crisis Mediators Expect Saudi, U.A.E. Proposals Soon

  • Gulf official sees signs that parties want to resolve crisis
  • Kuwait, Turkey are mediating between Qatar, Saudi-led alliance

How the Qatar Crisis Could Shape the Middle East

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are expected to relay to mediators what they want Qatar to do in return for ending their isolation of the tiny Gulf nation, according to a Gulf official with direct knowledge of the matter.

The proposals, which may come in the next two days, would make it easier to end the dispute, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. While the two sides are far apart at the moment, there are positive signs they’re willing to reach a conclusion and want Kuwait to continue to mediate, the official said, adding that Turkey was also helping.

Qatar said the absence of a clear list of demands has complicated efforts to resolve the crisis, which escalated this month when Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain severed ties and transportation links with their neighbor, accusing its government of supporting extremist groups and cozying up to Iran. Qatar, which described the action as an illegal siege, has denied the charges.

“A clear list of demands will be critical toward reaching a resolution -- without it, it’s difficult to find a starting point,” said Allison Wood, an analyst with Control Risks in Dubai.

Saudi and U.A.E. officials didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Kuwait has played a role in trying to end the Gulf conflict since it started, with the country’s emir visiting Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Qatar last week. Turkey has joined the efforts, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu holding talks with Qatari and Kuwaiti officials this week.

Stocks Gain

Qatar’s benchmark stock index rose after the report, closing 0.7 percent higher.

Members of the Saudi-led alliance have said nothing short of a complete overhaul of Qatari foreign policy to stop supporting extremist groups could restore ties. They’ve put more than 50 people and entities in Qatar on a terrorism list, and have ordered Qatari citizens to leave their countries.

Qatar has responded by expanding trade ties with Turkey and Iran, as well as ramping up domestic food production. Its finance minister, Ali Shareef Al Emadi, has said the country’s pockets are deep enough to withstand the pressure.

Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have failed to build “ a real groundswell of support by nations following suit in breaking off relations with Qatar,” said James Dorsey, a Gulf specialist and senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Their action has been “hampered by the bad optics of blocking the flow of food and medicine, the hardship opposed on individuals,” and “Qatar emerging as an underdog putting up a fight against what many may have seen as bullying,” he said.

Mixed Messages

The U.S. has sent mixed message about resolving the crisis. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson initially declined to take sides, but his cautious approach was overshadowed almost immediately by President Donald Trump -- who sent tweets appearing to take credit for and praising the Saudi-led bloc’s decision.

The four Gulf Arab monarchies at the heart of the dispute are U.S. allies. Qatar hosts the regional headquarters for U.S. Central Command, which includes a state-of-the-art air base the U.S. depends on to target Islamic State.

In a surprising twist, Qatar on Wednesday completed a $12 billion deal to buy as many as 36 F-15 jets from the U.S.

“The mixed signals from the U.S. aren’t productive when it comes to negotiating a settlement,’’ said Wood at Control Risks. “The different signals will allow the various parties to ally themselves with the individuals and departments that support their side within the Trump administration.’’

— With assistance by Zainab Fattah, and Filipe Pacheco

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