Qatar’s foreign minister hails ‘positive’ stance in UAE talks

Qatar’s chief diplomat expresses optimism about overcoming differences with the UAE after the Gulf rift.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also said there has been progress in talks with Saudi Arabia, which Qatar's emir visited recently, and with Egypt, where Sheikh Mohammed held talks last week [File: Ibraheem al-Omari/Reuters]

Qatar has held several rounds of talks with the United Arab Emirates to mend ties following an agreement to end the Gulf dispute and there is a “positive vision” to overcome differences, the Qatari foreign minister said.

Saudi Arabia in January announced a deal to end the dispute in which the kingdom, the UAE, and Bahrain, along with Egypt, severed economic and diplomatic ties with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member Qatar in June 2017 and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

Qatar repeatedly denied the claims.

Diplomats and regional sources have said Riyadh and Cairo were moving faster than the UAE and Bahrain to rebuild the relationship with Doha.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told United Kingdom-based Al Araby television in an interview aired on Friday that it was natural for talks to have different paces.

He said there has been positive progress in talks with Saudi Arabia, which Qatar’s emir visited recently, and with Egypt, where Sheikh Mohammed held talks last week. He said Qatar was discussing economic cooperation with both countries.

“With the UAE, the committees held several meetings … and we sensed from the working teams a positive vision to overcome differences,” the minister said. He said the last round was held a few weeks ago and he was also in touch with Emirati officials.

“It could take some time to move past this difficult period,” he added.

The UAE and Egypt oppose Qatari support for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed by all four states.

Asked whether the topic of the Brotherhood had been discussed with Egypt, Sheikh Mohammed said: “This file was not brought up as far as I know.”

“We do not have many outstanding issues with Egypt and there is positive progress,” he said without elaborating, noting coordination between the two countries to secure a ceasefire brokered by Egypt in the Gaza Strip.

Sheikh Mohammed separately told the broadcaster that his country did not envisage normalising ties with Syria any time soon.

“So far we see nothing on the horizon for a political solution acceptable to the Syrian people … the [government’s] approach and conduct has not changed,” he said.

“There is no motivation for us to re-establish ties with the Syrian regime at this time. The Syrian regime is committing crimes against its people.”

Gulf states downgraded or shut missions in Damascus in 2012 over attacks by the government on protests at the start of the conflict.

The UAE reopened its mission to Damascus in late 2018 in a bid to counter the influence of non-Arab actors like Iran, which along with Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebels.

The UAE has a charge d’affaires in Syria. Oman, one of the rare Arab countries that maintained diplomatic ties with Damascus, sent an ambassador in 2020.

The Qatari foreign minister, who visited Libya last week, said Doha plans to reopen its diplomatic mission in Tripoli soon.

The embassy was closed in 2014 when many foreign missions in the Libyan capital shut down as the country split between warring administrations.

Since fighting in Libya ended last year, the factions have accepted a new unity government mandated to unify institutions and prepare for elections in December.

Source: News Agencies