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Committee Security Council

Issue The Question of the Qatar blockade

Name Chris Lim

Position President

Introduction
From the 5th of June, 2017, the nation of Qatar would begin to suffer a major diplomatic
crisis, often referred to as the ‘Qatar Blockade’. This began when a Saudi-led coalition
of countries have declared severing their diplomatic relations with the nation of Qatar.
As of September 2019, the initial group of four Gulf State countries has increased to a
total of 12 countries have at one point engaged in this diplomatic crisis: Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Djibouti, Mauritania, Yemen, Senegal, Libya,
Jordan, the Maldives and the Comoros. Among those 12 nations, seven have still not
restored their diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of multiple participating countries have cited reasons
including Qatar’s alleged support of “terrorism” through its recent relations with Iran, and
also for meddling in the internal affairs of other nations. In response to these
accusations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar has mentioned that there are no
“legitimate justifications” for the blockades and that it was a violation of the country’s
sovereignty. The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, along with the
foreign minister of Qatar have both mentioned their interest in negotiating with
blockading countries, and have welcomed calls for international dialogue.

Approximately two years later, many agree that the Qatar blockade has lasted longer
than anticipated, with more than seven sovereign governments that have not restored
any diplomatic relations. The Foreign Minister of Qatar has urged the UN Security
Council to urge the Saudi-led bloc of states to life their blockade on the nation, as the
blockade has severely impacted the Qatari economy through the disruption of business,
transport, and commerce between Qatar and its neighboring countries.

Figure 1: The four gulf states that have initially severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar. These
include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Definition of Key Terms

Term Definition

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) A regional intergovernmental political and


economic union consisting of all Arab states
of the Persian Gulf, except for Iraq. These
include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab
Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

Al Jazeera A state-run Qatari media company that


operates an English-speaking news channel
in Qatar, and in many other foreign countries.

Blockade A restrictive measure designed to obstruct


the commerce and communications of an
unfriendly nation. ​(Merriam-Webster)

Embargo An official ban on trade or other commercial


activity with a particular country. ​(Oxford)

Emir A title of various Muslim, mainly Arab rulers.


(Oxford)
Background Information
The Qatar diplomatic crisis
The cause of the Qatar blockade can be attributed to a major media controversy that
occurred a few weeks prior. On the 19th of April, 2017, an unidentified hacker managed
to breach the poorly secured website of the state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA). The
intruder was gradually able to breach the internal network, and in just a few days, they
have managed to gain control of the entire network. Weeks later, the infiltrator entered
the news agency’s system and uploaded a news story with fabricated quotes
supposedly stated by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh ​Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani​. The story
falsely claimed that Al Thani criticized US president Donald Trump, and praised Iran as
an “Islamic power”. It also declared that the emir has spoken warmly of Hamas and its
parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood - a Sunni Islamist religiopolitical party. Due
to Qatar’s alleged support for such popular Islamist movements, they feared that the
nation’s aid and cooperation would endanger the conservative and anti-fundamentalist
monarchies of the Gulf States.

The fake news story was posted at around 12:13 am, and despite the fact it was quickly
taken down in the morning, regional press in several Gulf states, along with leaders
from allied nations such as the United States of America, have responded and
condemned Qatar for allegedly supported “terrorism” through maintaining too close
relations with Iran and tolerating the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Trump has stated
via social media that “there can no longer be a funding of Radical Ideology”, referring to
Qatar’s relations with Iran and his support for the Qatar blockade.
About two weeks later, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and
Yemen have officially declared the cutting of diplomatic ties on June 5, 2017. This
meant four out of six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have withdrawn
diplomatic relations; the only two countries that have refrained from doing so are Oman
and Kuwait. In response to the blockades and the negative backlash, the Foreign
Minister of Qatar has mentioned that these accusations have “no legitimate accusation”
and are “baseless”. He also added that the decision was a “violation of sovereignty”,
and that Qatar would work hard to ensure that its citizens and residents are not affected
by the blockades.

Demands presented by the blockading countries


On the 23rd of June 2017, the four Gulf States that have initially severed their
diplomatic ties - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain - have
proposed the following list of demands for Qatar to follow, which has been rejected:
● Curb diplomatic relations with Iran, expel Iranian military representatives
from Qatar, and limit economic cooperation.
● Shut down the Turkish military base under construction in Qatar and
cease all military cooperation with Turkey.
● Sever ties to all “terrorist, sectarian and ideological” groups and add them
to current and future “terror lists”.
● Stop all funding of individuals, groups and organizations designated
“terrorists” by the blockading countries, the US and others.
● Hand over all listed “terrorists” and criminals wanted by the four countries
and the US and to share all information about them.
● Shut down Al Jazeera and all affiliated stations.
● Stop meddling in other nation’s affairs and naturalising citizens of the four
blockading countries. Sever relations with elements opposed to
blockading governments and hand over all intelligence gathered on them.
● Financially compensate the four countries for loss of life, property and
income caused by Qatar’s policies over the years.
● Seek harmony with surrounding countries, militarily, politically,
economically, etc - to ensure Gulf security and the application of the
2013/2014 Riyadh Agreement.
● Hand over all information it holds on opposition elements it supported, with
clarifications of the forms of support it gave them.
● Shut down all news outlets funded directly and indirectly by Qatar,
including: Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al Jadeed, Mekameleen and Middle
East Eye.
● All demands must be agreed to within 10 days or they will become null
and void.
● An agreement with Qatar on these points was to include clear goals and a
schedule for reporting on progress (monthly for a year, quarterly for the
second year, and annually for 10 years after that).
After rejecting the 13 demands proposed by the four blockading nations, diplomats from
each country gave a joint statement on July 5 2017, in Cairo. They mentioned that they
will stop insisting Qatar to comply with the demands, but instead, they have asked for
Qatar to fully commit to six broad principles to restart the negotiation process. The
proposed principles were:
- Commitment to combat extremism and terrorism in all its forms and to prevent
their financing or the provision of safe havens
- Prohibiting all acts of incitement and all forms of expression which spread, incite,
promote or justify hatred and violence
- Full commitment to Riyadh Agreement 2013 and the supplementary agreement
and its executive mechanism for 2014 within the framework of the GCC for Arab
States
- Commitment to all the outcomes of the Arab-Islamic-US Summit held in Riyadh
in May 2017
- To refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of States and from supporting
illegal entities
- The responsibility of all States of international community to confront all forms of
extremism and terrorism as a threat to international peace and security

Along with cutting their diplomatic and economic ties with Doha, the four GCC nations
have also introduced land, sea, and air embargoes, including Saudi Arabia closing
Qatar’s only land border with the Persian Gulf, banning Qatari aircrafts on airspaces
and the banning Qatari ships from docking at ports. This has had a huge socioeconomic
impact on the nation, especially with commerce, transportation and trade for both Qatari
and foreign businesses with markets within the borders of the country.

Figure 2: Diagram of the Gulf States’ air embargo on the Qatari airspace

In September 2017, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has also mentioned
in a United Nations General Assembly meeting that "the countries who imposed the
blockade on the state of Qatar interfere in the internal affairs of many countries, and
accuse all those who oppose them domestically and abroad with terrorism. By doing so,
they are inflicting damage on the war on terror." While they are open to negotiating and
starting a dialogue to restore the relationship between Qatar and the GCC nations, the
emir has reiterated that Qatar refuses “to yield to dictations by pressure and siege."
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
The Gulf Cooperation Council was founded in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on
May 21, 1981. This coalition of nations on the Persian Gulf had the shared objective of
achieving economic prosperity and unity through similar political and cultural ideologies.
To reiterate Article 4 in the charter of the GCC, it has stated that the alliance was
formed to strengthen relations among its member nations and to promote cooperation
among the countries' citizens. This intergovernmental political and economic union
brought many benefits with its members through transnational alliances, and Qatar has
emphasised this through the importance of unifying and restoring the relations between
the nations in the GCC.

However, the blockades of 2017 are not the first instance of a Qatar-gulf crisis
occurring. In March 2014, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have
broken their diplomatic relations with Qatar, citing the same accusations as the
blockades of 2017; interfering with their internal affairs, promoting extremism through Al
Jazeera and other state-run media networks, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood
throughout the region. Unlike the Qatar-gulf crisis of 2017, however, the countries have
been able to restore diplomatic relations within a few weeks. As part of the resolution In
April 2014, Qatar representatives have signed the Riyadh Agreement that urged an end
for media incitement; however, like many of the solutions proposed at the time, this was
never applied. As such, the current day dispute can be ultimately attributed to the
unfulfilled agreements between Qatar and the Gulf States, as well as the extent of
influence that two countries in particular have - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates. Many argue that the lack of commitment and fulfilment to the compromises of
2014 has led to dissatisfaction with Qatar’s perceived relation with Gulf States and
adherence to its objectives and principles, which lead to the dispute continuing on till the
present day. According to Qatari officials, it is quite obvious that “Doha’s neighboring
countries, namely: Saudi Arabia and the UAE, had long been suspicious of their
gas-rich neighbor. They disliked its independent and activist foreign policy and of its
sponsorship of Al Jazeera, the popular and divisive news network based in Doha. In
addition, the emir of Qatar’s alleged support of the Sunni Islamist fundamentalist
political party Muslim Brothers has led to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to claim that “Qatar is a
rogue state that should be brought to heel.”

Major Countries and Organisations Involved


Bahrain
Along with the three other countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Bahrain
has severed their diplomatic and economic ties at 05:50 am, on June 5 - 2017, making
Bahrain the first nation to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar. On May 27 2018,
Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Bahrain, has
mentioned that Qatar should refrain from attempting to involve allied western countries,
which could potentially lengthen and prolong the blockades and embargoes. However,
they have persisted that international leaders are welcome for dialogue.
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has severed its diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar since June 5,
2017, while also contributing vastly for the land, sea, and air embargoes affecting Qatar.
On the 20th of December, Saudi Arabia permanently closed the border between their
country and Qatar, ultimately closing off the only land border that the nation to the rest
of the GCC states and beyond.

United Arab Emirates


The United Arab Emirates cut all their diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, citing
the same reasons as the other Saudi-led coalition of nations - Qatar’s alleged financial
support and harbouring of terrorists and Islamic fundamentalist organizations. On July
23rd, 2018, the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a provisional
ruling stating that measures put in place by the United Arab Emirates as part of its
blockade against Qatar has amount to racial discrimination. Due to this, the UAE has
immediately allowed Qatari families to reunite as compensation for their alleged racial
discrimination and violation of country sovereignty.

United States of America


Initially, towards the beginning of the Qatar-gulf crisis of 2017, the Trump administration
has repeatedly criticised and received criticism from others for accusing Qatar of
supporting “Radical Ideology” and sponsoring “terrorism at a high level.” This has led to
the US receiving criticism for wrongfully accusing Qatar of such acts when the nation
has repeatedly helped the United States exert its position in the Gulf territory to combat
terrorism. Recently however, the US’s approach has become more conciliatory and less
polarizing to other nations. President Trump has welcomed the emir of Qatar to visit the
White House in order to negotiate, to which the emir has thanked him for. On June 14,
2018, according to a White House statement, the two leaders had managed to discuss
the issue through a phone call. Throughout the phone call, the two leaders discussed
different ways in which the two nations could collaborate, as well as the importance of a
unified Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for the prosperity of both Qatar and the five
other members.

Timeline of Events

Date of Event Description of Event

March 2014 The first Qatar-gulf crisis occurs with Bahrain,


Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
severing their economic and diplomatic ties.
The reasons cited were similar to the
blockades in 2017 - including Qatar’s support
for extremism and meddling into internal
affairs of conservative monarchies of Gulf
States. All relations are eventually restored
within a few weeks.

April 2017 An unidentified hacker gains access to the


website of the Qatar News Agency (QNA).
More access is gained as time progresses
until they eventually have full control.

May 2017 US President Trump meets 55 Arab and


Muslim leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The
summit had a central focus on unity in the
“fight against terrorism”

May 2017 The QNA infiltrator releases a news story


including fabricated quotes from Qatar’s emir
Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, sparking outrage
from neighboring Arab countries. This is
arguably the trigger of the Qatar diplomatic
crisis.

June 2017 Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Egypt, the


Maldives, and Bahrain, have severed their
diplomatic ties with Qatar.

June 2017 Qatar has rejected the 13 demands proposed


by the four GCC blockading nations.

July 2017 Diplomats propose six broad principles in an


attempt to restart negotiations.

December 2017 Saudi Arabia permanently closes the only


land border between Qatar and rest of the
Gulf States.

June 2018 President Trump and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin


Hamad Al Thani have a phone call in which
they briefly discuss the issue and the
importance of a stable GCC.
Solutions (Past and Possible)
One of the main issues for Qatar is their high dependency on imports for energy, food
and other resources. Therefore, one solution would be to simply wait for anti-Qatar
alliances and incentives to disappear, until the members of the GCC are willing to
restore their diplomatic status. In order for this to work, Qatar needs to be more
self-reliant and independent. In 2018, Qatar launched a five year development plan in
which the nation would focus on making itself less dependent on the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) and become more self-reliant amidst the boycotting countries isolating
them from the rest of the Persian Gulf. The five-year development plan, also known as
the National Development strategy for 2018 – 2022, outlines how Qatar will engage in
rational energy consumption and further implement renewable energy to decrease
dependency on imports. It also outlines plans to satisfy 30% of its demand for farm
animals and 65% of the demand for fish by 2022.

Another approach to the issue would be for Qatar to seek stronger social and economic
alliances between other countries. Through the nation’s gas industry, Qatar could
potentially consolidate diplomatic ties between other countries rather than the members
of the GCC. This solution would be difficult to achieve considering Qatar has relied on
the transnational union of the GCC for much of its economic growth and success,
however consolidating an alliance based on the needs of both countries can help
mitigate the repercussions of the blockades and embargoes.
The last approach would be to further incentivize and encourage negotiations and
discussions, especially more in favor of the GCC countries that have blockaded and
isolated Qatar. This is likely the least feasible solution, as Qatar is not interested in
submitting to the demands proposed by the four GCC nations, but reinforcing the need
for summits and regular discussions for this topic is paramount for any progress to be
made on this issue. Both the Qatar-gulf crisis of 2014 and 2017 did not yield any
intuitive or definitive solution that vastly contributed to solving the issue, and this is likely
because of the lack of fruitful discussion via conventions such as international summits
and biannual conferences.

Resources for further Reading

● The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial


Discrimination - CERD (1969)
● The State of Qatar Second Voluntary National Review (2018)
● National Development Strategy (2018)
● Understanding the blockade against Qatar - Al Jazeera (2018)
● Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Racial Discrimination - Qatar v. United Arab Emirates (2019)
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