Seeking an End to the GCC Crisis: Is a Solution Imminent?
Majed Mohammed Al-Ansari
President, Qatar International Academy for Security Studies
Khalil E. Jahshan – Moderator
Executive Director, Arab Center Washington DC
On December 10, 2020, Arab Center Washington DC Executive Director Khalil E. Jahshan hosted Dr. Majed Al-Ansari in a virtual briefing titled “Seeking an End to the GCC Crisis: Is a Solution Imminent?” Ansari serves as president of Qatar International Academy for Security Studies, a Doha-based consultancy firm.
Responding to questions from Jahshan about different aspects of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis, which began in 2017, and whether the current announcements are enough to indicate that it is on its way to a resolution, Ansari said that despite all the recent developments, nothing has changed. What we know, he added, is based mostly on media reports; no official government statements have defined what this resolution will be like. There is news that the principal states are waiting for the upcoming GCC Summit to make a specific announcement, though this is uncertain as well. In December 2019 there was potential good news that never materialized. Ansari stated that instead of the 13 demands by the blockading countries––Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt––now there is talk of three overarching principles for a possible solution: 1) that the old demands are practically rescinded; 2) that discussions are about finding common ground, not ending the crisis; and 3) that negotiations are only between Qatar and Saudi Arabia—though no one knows whether the latter can be viewed as speaking for the other three blockading countries.
Ansari acknowledged that there is progress on these fronts, but it is too limited in scope and outcome. He said that “there is some de-escalation in Saudi media, and in Qatari media … But there is absolutely no de-escalation on the Bahraini and Emirati side.” Commenting on the news that there might be a reconciliation during the upcoming GCC Summit, Ansari said there are important issues that need to be addressed such as who will attend and on what basis. What is important, he insisted, is the Qatari demand that the embargo and sanctions on Qatar, imposed in 2017, be lifted before any reconciliation efforts. This will be very important to resolve before any talks can be fruitful at the GCC meeting. Ansari also singled out the issue of representation in the current and future negotiations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, that is, whether the other parties to the conflict––Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt––would really accept that Saudi Arabia represent them. Bahrain and Egypt are open, he continued, but the most difficult party is the UAE, which is at odds with Saudi Arabia on other matters as well, specifically coordination within OPEC and on Yemen. In fact, the UAE has said that no resolution to the GCC crisis can be concluded without the UAE signing off on the deal.
Addressing the role that Kuwait has played—and is continuing to play—in resolving the crisis, Ansari said that Qatar gives most of the credit to the late Kuwaiti ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah, who was instrumental from the beginning in limiting the damage of the crisis and, in fact, preventing a full-scale invasion of Qatar. As to whether any resolution to the crisis will impact Turkey, Ansari stated that Qatar will never forget the positive role Turkey played and the support it gave to Qatar. As he put it, “Qatar made it clear from the beginning, its relation with Turkey is not on the table, and it will never be on the table.” There is complete coordination and Turkey will not be sacrificed, he added. Touching on Trump presidential envoy Jared Kushner’s involvement at this stage, Ansari said he did not understand why any Gulf state would want to deal with Kushner as he is on his way out of the White House.