Hectic diplomatic activities are now going on in the Gulf region following severance of ties with Qatar by Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain and a few other Muslim countries. Qatar like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, is, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Qatar has virtually been blockaded on flimsy grounds of hobnobbing with Iran and patronising terrorists. The Emir of Kuwait, another GCC member which did not side with Saudi Arabia, had talks with King Salman to resolve the crisis peacefully.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Saudi Foreign Minister Abdel al-Jubier in Riyadh on June 14 pleading for withdrawal of blockade against Qatar. But he stood silent when the Saudi Foreign Minister was seen telling journalists that there was no blockade.
It is interesting to note a virtual drama. US President Donald Trump has authorised selling US weapons, including F-15 QA fighter jets, worth $12 billion to Qatar although he accused Doha of sponsoring terrorism at the highest level. Having signed the letters of offer and (LOA) acceptance by Defence Secretary of America James Mattis in Washington on June 14, his Qatari counterpart Dr.Khaled-bin Mohammad Al Attiyah said: "We believe that this agreement will propel Qatar's ability to provide for its own security while also reducing the burden placed upon the United States military in conducting operation against violent extremism."
Meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister by the US Secretary of State and signing of LOA by Qatar with the US administration contradict Trump's policy of blaming Qatar for sponsoring terrorism.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to the Emir of Kuwait on the crisis asking him to play the role of a mediator. Meanwhile, Qatar's foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met his French counterpart in Paris to apprise him of the situation arising out of boycott by three Gulf countries. The foreign minister agreed that Kuwait could play the role of a mediator and Qatar is ready to be engaged in talks that conform to international law. He also had a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow to inform him about illegal action initiated by some Gulf countries against Qatar. Russian President Vladimir Putin requested Gulf countries to resolve the crisis to defeat ISIS.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan seems to be very critical of Gulf countries for blockading Qatar, another Gulf country, calling the action anti-Islamic. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusglu went to Doha on June 15 to meet Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to discuss the crisis and resolve it amicably. He also proposed to meet the Emir of Kuwait as well. The Turkish Foreign Minister, who is now in Riyadh, expects Saudi King Salman to lead an effort to resolve the crisis while the UAE Foreign Minister is now in Algeria to discuss the crisis because the government of Algeria asked Gulf states to defuse tension and resolve the crisis.
Gulf states' transport ministers met officials of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) headquarters in Montreal on June 15. The meeting was arranged by the ICAO on receiving complaint from Qatar that its Gulf neighbours closed their airspace to Qatari flights. Qatar has indicated that it will seek UN assistance to resolve the conflict using dispute resolution mechanism under Chicago convention which is overseen by the ICAO. This organisation does not impose binding rule but wields clout through safety and security standard. Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar al Baker holds the opinion that the airline's global operations continue to run smoothly. He said the blockade is unprecedented and it is in direct contradiction to the convention that guarantees rights to civil overflights.
By now, a leading lawyer of Bahrain filed a case against the country's administration claiming violation of the Bahrain constitution. This clearly indicates that the country works towards maintaining economic unity among members of the GCC.
According to western diplomats, Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, son of present the King of Saudi Arabia, who is Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister, is behind the surprise decision to blockade Qatar to challenge independent foreign policy being pursued by Qatar's dynamic 37-year old Emeer. It is hoped that crisis in Gulf region will be resolved soon for the sake of unity of the Muslim Ummah during Ramadan.
The writer is a retired diplomat from Bangladesh.