Qatar will not halt or make concessions in its relationships with Turkey and Iran following a "solidarity and stability" agreement that was signed by Gulf leaders in a landmark summit that took place in the ancient desert city of Al-Ula on Tuesday, the Qatari foreign minister said. Saudi Arabia and its allies have restored full relations with Qatar, ending a damaging rift that erupted three years ago.
The country's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman shared his evaluations of the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi Arabia, held to heal rifts between Qatar and the Saudi-led alliance, with Doha-based Al-Jazeera news network. "In order to overcome the conflict, an agreement was reached on the basic principles such as not harming any state, not interfering with the internal affairs or threatening the security of the region," Sheikh Mohammed said, adding that with the agreement signed at the GCC summit, the crisis was finally over. Qatar and leaders of the Gulf states agreed on the basic principles to overcome the conflict but the process will take time due to "differences."
“It will take some steps among the countries to rebuild the relationship ... there will be differences, some outstanding issues that will be discussed bilaterally between the countries,” he said. “Each country has a different set of disagreements with Qatar.”
"Ending the Gulf crisis is not just a success for Qatar, Saudi Arabia or any other country, it is a success for everyone," Sheikh Mohammed said. "We hope for solutions that will reduce the tension," he added, referring to the rift between the bloc and Iran.
According to the Financial Times (FT), Qatari authorities had agreed to cooperate on counterterrorism and "transnational security" with Saudi Arabia and its three allies. However “bilateral relationships are mainly driven by a sovereign decision of the country ... (and) the national interest.”
“So there is no effect on our relationship with any other country,” Sheikh Mohammed told the FT during the interview.
His remarks came after Riyadh's announcement that it would end its yearslong embargo on the Gulf Arab state. The decision to open borders was the first major step toward ending the diplomatic crisis that has deeply divided U.S. defense partners, frayed societal ties and tore apart a traditionally clubby alliance of Arab states. Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in Saudi Arabia and was greeted with an embrace by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on Tuesday, just a day before the statement.
Riyadh – along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt – cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of being too close to Iran and supporting “terrorism.” The Saudi-led coalition issued 13 sweeping demands, including the closure of the Al-Jazeera news network and the shuttering of a Turkish military base, in order to end the Qatar blockade, also known as the Gulf crisis. They also demanded Doha curb relations with Riyadh's archrival, Iran. Qatar rejected the demands, calling them "unrealistic" and "not actionable," leading to a stalemate. Four countries announced their stunning blockade on Qatar and cut all transport and diplomatic links with it. The move separated families who'd intermarried with Qataris and ended years of visa-free travel for Qataris in parts of the Gulf. It also pushed Qatar diplomatically closer to Turkey.
Meanwhile, Turkey on Tuesday welcomed the outcome of the GCC, asserting that "the expression of common will to resolve the Gulf dispute and the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations with Qatar at the end of the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council held today in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, is a welcome development."
"We hope that the Al-Ula Declaration signed at the end of the summit will lead to the ultimate resolution of the conflict," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It reiterated the importance Turkey attaches to the "unity and solidarity" within the GCC.
"With the restoration of mutual confidence among the Gulf countries, Turkey stands ready to further develop the institutional cooperation with the GCC of which Turkey is a strategic partner," the statement added.
After inking the deal with Qatar, MBS said the region needed to unite and face the challenges posed by Iran's proxies and its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. He said the declaration signed by Gulf leaders and Egypt "emphasizes Arab and Gulf solidarity and stability, and reinforces the continuity of friendship and brotherhood between our countries."
GCC leaders signed two documents on Tuesday, the Al-Ula Declaration and a final communique, described by MBS as affirming "our Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability." He called for unity to confront challenges facing the region, singling out "the threats posed by the Iranian regime's nuclear and ballistic missile program and its plans for sabotage and destruction."
Calling the participating countries “winners” Sheikh Mohammed expressed hopes that "within a week from the signing things should take the steps to come back to normal.”
Analysts say the UAE was particularly reluctant to converge, in part because of Abu Dhabi's concerns about Qatar's growing relationship with Turkey. The UAE accuses Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of meddling in Arab affairs, and the power struggle between the two countries intensified last year.
Sheikh Mohammed said he hoped the other nations involved in the Gulf dispute “will have the same political will as the Saudis, and they will find Qatar has the political will to engage.”
"If there are opportunities that we see in the future, and we see a continuation of the political will of the countries to engage, we are very open,” he said.