His Excellency Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, was the guest of honor and the main keynote speaker at the 2017 Gulf Studies Forum. Sheikh Mohammad's address, delivered to a special session of the Forum on the evening of Sunday, 3 December was titled "The Gulf Crisis in Regional Context" and was an opportunity for the statesman to address the possibilities of success for the upcoming GCC Summit due to take place in Kuwait on 5-6 December, 2017. The summit in Kuwait is intended to find a way out of the crisis in intra-Gulf relations which was crippled collective decision-making in the GCC since June of this year, and in which three other members of the GCC imposed an embargo on Doha.
The Blockade of Qatar: the Motivations
Qatar's chief diplomat offered his views on the roots of the crisis in intra-Gulf relations, which he attributed the lack of abiding mechanisms for conflict resolution across the Arab region. This, explained Sheikh Mohammad, meant that there was no role for what he called "preventative diplomacy" in the Middle East. The Qatari Foreign Minister then proceeded to explain the negative role played by Arab regimes in turning their media against Doha, exacerbating a crisis which had vast human consequences for the people of Qatar and across the Gulf. Additionally, Sheikh Mohammad described how stability and the protection of collective security had been used as a pretext for the intervention of the affairs of sovereign states across the Arab region.
Sheikh Mohammad also explained that the countries leading the embargo and smear campaign against Qatar were doing so out of spite for Doha's increasingly prominent role as an invaluable player in regional power politics. This growing role, said the Foreign Minister, also brought to the fore the fact that Qatari policy makers often had a "healthy" level of disagreement with their counterparts in other countries. Qatar's insistence on being a mediator of international conflicts drove the desire on the part of other countries in the region to punish Doha, instead of being able to accept a normal difference of opinions.
Sheikh Mohammad further added that Qatar's pivotal role in world politics was only made possible because of the economic prowess made possible by its vast natural resources. Whatever the countries leading the embargo hoped, Qatar continued to be an important source of energy for markets across the globe, with countries as far afield as the United Kingdom and Italy, South Korea and Japan, buying Qatari natural gas. Indeed, Qatar continued to supply natural gas to Dubai, even as the United Arab Emirates was one of the main proponents of the blockade on the country. Qatar's decision to continue using the Dolphin Gas Pipeline, said Sheikh Mohammad, reflected the desire of policy-makers in Doha to avoid mixing economics with political differences of opinion, especially if such disagreements could have an adverse effect on the peoples of the region.
Qatar: Committed to a Kuwait-Mediated Resolution to the Gulf Crisis
On the question of ending the blockade on Qatar through negotiations, Sheikh Mohammad expressed Qatar's support and appreciation of the efforts by Kuwait's Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to bring about a negotiated end to the intra-Gulf crisis. While conceding that the Gulf Cooperation Council was itself institutionally ineffective throughout the latest Gulf crisis, Sheikh Mohammad insisted that Qatar would never work to dismantle the GCC and instead wanted to see the alliance, which he described as the "fulfillment of a dream" for the peoples of the Gulf, live into the future. Sheikh Mohammad also expressed Qatar's wish that in the wake of the crisis, the GCC would "raise to the aspirations of the peoples of the Gulf," and insisted that Qatar always insisted on a resolution to the crisis from within the Gulf itself, abiding by Kuwaiti mediation efforts.
The Kuwait Summit: the Prospects for Success
Sheikh Mohammad explained to the audience that the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim had welcomed an invitation from his Kuwaiti counterpart to attend a summit of GCC leaders due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday (5 and 6 December), which both the Emir of Qatar and his Kuwaiti hosts had hoped would pave the way for the end of the crisis.
Sheikh Mohammad affirmed that Doha's delegation to the meeting in Kuwait would be at the highest levels, expressing the hope that the Summit would provide an opportunity for all of the outstanding issues between the GCC to be discussed in full and for a resolution to be found under Kuwaiti auspices, within the GCC framework. Looking forward, Sheikh Mohammad also expressed the desire that the Middle East would develop a mechanism would develop a mechanism for the peaceful resolution of conflicts between the Arab states. "It was the lack of reason and peaceful mechanisms for conflict resolution which allowed for the intervention into the affairs of states in the region by other governments, on the surreptitious grounds of protecting collective security".