Kuwait, Qatar optimistic about ending Gulf dispute after 'fruitful discussions'

Published December 4, 2020
The dispute dates from 2017 when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar. — Reuters/File
The dispute dates from 2017 when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar. — Reuters/File

Kuwait's foreign minister said on Friday that progress had been made towards ending a Gulf row that has seen Saudi Arabia and its allies boycott Qatar for over three years while his Qatari counterpart voiced optimism a resolution could be reached.

The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar in mid-2017. Washington says it wants a united Gulf front against Iran.

“Fruitful discussion has taken place recently in which all sides expressed their keenness for Gulf and Arab unity and stability, and to reach a final agreement that realises lasting solidarity,” Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah said in a statement read out on Kuwait TV.

He also lauded recent efforts by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who held talks in Doha on Wednesday following a visit to Saudi Arabia.

A Gulf source familiar with the matter told Reuters it was significant that all parties had agreed to move forward with discussions.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in a Twitter post welcomed the Kuwaiti statement as “an imperative step” towards resolving the rift.

He had said earlier on Friday that there has been movement but that he could not predict whether a breakthrough was imminent or would fully resolve the matter.

“We are hopeful that things will move in the right direction right now. We cannot predict whether it will be imminent or resolve the issue in one day”, he told the “Mediterranean Dialogues” online conference, speaking by videolink.

'Significant process'

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed “within reach” after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran.

“We have made significant progress in the last few days thanks to the continuing efforts of Kuwait but also thanks to strong support from [US] President [Donald] Trump,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told a Rome conference via videolink.

“We hope this progress can lead to a final agreement which looks within reach and I can say I am somewhat optimistic that we are close to finalising an agreement between all the nations in the dispute.”

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed understandings in the Gulf.

“We welcome understandings in the Persian Gulf announced by Kuwait,” tweeted Zarif, whose country has good ties with Qatar. “We hope reconciliation contributes to stability and political and economic development for all peoples of our region.”

The other four nations accuse Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar, which hosts the region's largest US military base, denies the charges and says the boycott aims to undermine its sovereignty.

Washington has been pushing the countries to reopen Gulf airspace for Qatari aircraft as a first step to ending the crisis, diplomats and sources have said.

Asked if a resolution would be bilateral or include all the Gulf states, the Qatari minister said it should be “holistic” and based on mutual respect.

“No country is in a position to impose any demands on another country, whether from Qatar or from the quartet [...] Each country should decide its foreign policy,” he added.

The four countries had set out 13 demands for Qatar, from closing Al Jazeera television and shuttering a Turkish base to cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading ties with Iran, which shares a giant gas field with Qatar.

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