At last we have seen a sliver of movement in the Gulf crisis that has pitted Qatar against three of its close neighbours and Egypt for the last month and a half. On Thursday, the ruler of Qatar overhauled his country’s counter-terror law and created two national lists for individuals and terrorist entities — while specifically defining who they were and taking up terror finance as a crunch issue to be tackled through US ministrations. One wonders whether this will be enough to appease its foes because there are nine other conditions that are still unmet and holding up any possibility of normalisation of relations. Saudi Arabia and company had earlier withdrawn three of the more trickier conditions that they had originally set Doha, including the closure of Al Jazeera TV, dismantling of a Turkish military base and breaking off ties with Iran. And although Qatar decided to grit its teeth and bear the pain of sanctions and humiliation of seeing its only land border closed. Make no mistake the sanctions are hurting the oil and gas economy but not in the way its foes had hoped for. GDP growth is set to fall from 3.5% to 2.3%. The government, however, intends to tide that over through various plans. So who exactly is hurting? It is the isolated emirate’s guest workers whose numbers run into tens of thousands.
Turkey’s president is taking personal interest in resolving the conflict. Though somewhat belatedly, China has also weighed into the row, telling both Qatar and the four Arab states that both sides should resolve their differences through the GCC platform. In its own characteristic way, Beijing has backed Kuwait’s mediation attempts and offered to play a constructive role in promoting peace through a process of negotiations. However, it will take a little more than mere cajoling and arm-twisting to get the two sides to the negotiating table.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2017.
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