Recent statements by Omani Foreign Minister Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud Al Busaidi about the ongoing rift between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours provoked a firm response from the former head of the Saudi intelligence service, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud.
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Prince Turki bin Faisal, responding to the statement, reaffirmed that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt were continuing their over three-year boycott of Qatar due to Doha’s policies that are viewed as threatening to regional security and stability and alleged support of extremist groups.
In his response to Busaidi’s statements, Prince Turki noted that Oman had not been exposed to security threats like Saudi Arabia and the other boycotting countries, so it was not compelled to follow the Arab quartet’s policies.
Saudi Arabia led its allies — the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — to cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of backing radical Islamist movements and harbouring ties with regional archrival Iran, charges Doha denies.
The debate comes at a time when the dispute seems to be heading towards a breakthrough following efforts made by the administration of US President Donald Trump, and based on previous mediation efforts by former Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah.
Earlier last week, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah, who is leading mediation efforts, said that all sides had expressed keenness for a “final agreement” during recent “fruitful discussions” which have included the United States.
Analysts of Gulf affairs sensed in Prince Turki bin Faisal’s tone signs that Saudi Arabia is unhappy with Qatar’s policies despite attempts to resolve the dispute and adapt to changes on the international scene, particularly the election of a new US President who may not be as closely aligned with Riyadh as his predecessor.
Observers say Prince Turki’s statements indicate that his country has never overlooked Qatar’s threat to regional security and stability by adopting hostile policies and weaving a network of alliances with enemy parties, whether states or organisations.
Despite renewed hopes, the recent steps taken to end the dispute with Qatar are widely viewed as mere attempts to restore calm in the Arab Gulf region, with some experts arguing Riyadh is hoping for coexistence but not reconciliation.
In his most recent statements, the Omani foreign minister also tackled the Iranian file, saying his country is hoping the US can return to the international scene and re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, which he described as “the greatest American success in the region.”
Saudi Arabia has been vocally opposed to the nuclear agreement with Iran, arguing that the deal is ineffective because it does not include restrictions on Iran’s missile programme, nor limit Tehran’s interference in its neighbours’ affairs.
Prince Turki bin Faisal responded to Busaidi in comments at the Manama Dialogue conference, saying: “Thank you Mr. Badr for what you presented during your speech. Oman’s diplomatic lexicon, which does not include the word ‘boycott’, reflects the unique nature of the Sultanate, which has not been a target of neighbours’ attempts to undermine its stability and the security of its people.”
Prince Turki bin Faisal, who previously served as the kingdom’s ambassador to both the United Kingdom and the United States, said,
“The moves of these neighbours to undermine stability targeted this country [Bahrain], the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and my country … I hope Qatar will start treating us as Oman has always treated us.”
“When that happens, we will remove the word ‘boycott’ from all our lexica,” Prince Turki said, adding, “Can your Excellency add the phrase of ‘non-interference in other countries’ affairs’ to the lexicon when tackling the file of the nuclear agreement with Iran?”
Until recently, the over three-year diplomatic dispute with Qatar had appeared intractable, but Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in an interview on the sidelines of a security conference in Bahrain that a breakthrough was imminent.
“We are in full coordination with our partners in this process and the prospects that we see are very positive towards a final agreement,” he said, adding that “the eventual resolution will involve all parties concerned.”
“What we envision is a resolution that covers all aspects and is satisfactory to all parties involved,” he said when asked whether the dispute was headed for a full settlement, adding that it would happen “soon.”
Kuwait’s foreign minister revealed that “fruitful” discussions recently took place towards stability and to achieve reconciliation and support Arab and Gulf solidarity.
The Kuwaiti minister added that discussions are ongoing between parties under Kuwait’s new ruling emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, and US President Donald Trump over the crisis.
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