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A crisis without end? Gulf states settle in for long-haul

  • Published at 02:38 pm July 9th, 2017
A crisis without end? Gulf states settle in for long-haul

More than a month since the start of the diplomatic crisis gripping the Gulf, hopes of a swift resolution seem as remote as a summer downpour in the desert.

Both sides, the group of Saudi-led allies against Qatar, seem as entrenched in their positions as ever and as unlikely to find a face-saving solution for all as at any time since the conflict erupted on June 5.

"I think that this crisis has a way to go still," said Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf analyst with the Baker Institute at the US-based Rice University.

He is not alone.

A weary US State Department this week signalled its belief that the row, which has seen Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt sever ties with Qatar over claims it supports Islamist extremists, will rumble on, at best, for some time.

The first days of July had offered a tiny, hopeful glimpse of a resolution as the region awaited Qatar's response to the list of 13 onerous demands placed on Doha by the Saudi-led bloc.

But a defiant Qatar, which denies the charges of supporting extremism, then called the demands, such as closing broadcaster al-Jazeera and the Turkish military base in Doha – "unrealistic".

In return, Saudi and its allies threatened further sanctions, while Qatar hit back, labelling the four Arab states "siege countries".

The crisis seems to be in deadlock.

Long, drawn-out row

"It appears that Saudi Arabia and the UAE underestimated Qatar's ability to very quickly bring on board major regional powers such as Turkey and Iran," Christopher Davidson, an expert on Middle East politics at Britain's Durham University, said.

"In this context, pushing forward with any form of cross-border intervention seems unlikely, with instead a long drawn out slow-bleed of Qatar's economy probably being the preferred Saudi-UAE strategy."

So what happens next?

There has been much speculation that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will seek to push Qatar out of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council either through suspension or expulsion.

Reports in the Saudi media have suggested this could be the next step in Qatar's isolation though it is unclear if there would be enough votes to carry this through.

Krieg speculated that Saudi Arabia instead might manoeuvre to penalise Qatar through its membership of the Arab League.

On trade there has been suggestions that Saudi Arabia and the UAE may present international companies with a choice of doing business with them or Qatar, not both.

Following a decision on July 4 by Qatar Petroleum to expand gas production by 30%, using joint ventures with international businesses, companies were reportedly already forming an orderly queue for contracts.

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