Testing times again for Gulf

  • C P Ravindran,former deputy managing editor of Gulf Times writes on recent developments in the gulf.

The Gulf region is passing through one of its worst crises in modern times. The region had faced testing  times during the Iran-Iraq War that lasted from September 1980 to August 1988, the first Gulf War from January 1990 to February 1991 and the Iraq War from March 2003 to December 2011. But in those past conflicts, the Gulf states presented a united front and moved together to accomplish their common objectives and strategies.

But now unfortunately, the discord is among themselves, threatening the alliance, the Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC), which has been striving to forge stronger political and economic links among the five regional states of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain.

Qatar has said the demands made by the Arab nations that have joined hands against it in the current diplomatic crisis were quite impossible to meet. Qatar’s Foreign Minister, HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, told a press conference in Doha the other day that the list of demands from countries isolating Qatar “is unrealistic and is not actionable”.“It’s not about terrorism, it’s talking about shutting down the freedom of speech,” the Qatari Foreign Minister claimed at the joint press conference after talks with visiting German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.

 

                 Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — which accuse Qatar of supporting extremism — had given Doha an extra 48 hours to meet their demands after an initial 10-day deadline expired on Sunday. The extension of the deadline expired today.

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The demands included Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood, closing broadcaster Al-Jazeera, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base in Qatar. HE Sheikh Mohamed had handed an official response to the demands on Monday.

Qatari authorities have stressed that Al Jazeera is a source of pride in the state, “given that it has worked for 20 years and at a time when only the voice of governments was heard”.They are eager to point out that the Al Jazeera TV network had become a platform for freedom of expression and different opinions for millions of Arabs.

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It is quite certain that both sides will suffer if the crisis drags on. So it is of utmost importance that efforts should be continued to settle the issue and find a solution acceptable to both sides. Kuwait has been striving just for that with its tireless mediation efforts.

* C P Ravindran was the deputy managing editor of Gulf Times, being with the paper for nearly 38 years since its start.

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