Big change not expected in Doha policy towards Riyadh: Zaccara

TEHRAN, Dec. 09 (MNA) – Research assistant professor at Qatar University says despite recent talks between Saudi Arabia and Qatar It is still difficult to predict if this will mean a change in the overall foreign policy of Qatar.

Qatar's foreign minister has said he hopes for "progress" in the efforts to resolve the Gulf diplomatic crisis following talks with Saudi Arabia, adding that the parties have "moved from a stalemate" in the two-year dispute.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani made the comments on Friday while speaking at a foreign policy conference in Rome amid signs of thawing tensions between Qatar and its neighbors.

To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Dr. Luciano Zaccara, a research assistant professor at Qatar University.

During "MED - Mediterranean Dialogues" in Rome, Qatari Foreign Minister said that his country hadn’t supported the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanul Muslimin) and political Islam. Can his remarks be considered as a shift in the country’s foreign policy?

Bearing in mind the recent signs that are showing some rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, including the unannounced visit of the Qatari Foreign Minister to Riyadh in November and the developments around the [Persian] Gulf Football Cup which is currently played at Doha with the presence of the ‘blockading’ teams and fans that came directly by airplane despite the blockade, the words of the FM can certainly be attributed to a negotiation that is taking place among both states to ease the tension. It is still difficult to predict if this will mean a change in the overall foreign policy of Qatar, but I don’t expect a big change.

Reuters also announced that about one month ago the Qatari FM had visited Riyadh and has announced that his country won’t support Ikhwanul Muslimin anymore. Can such a thing affect Ankara and Doha relations?

Turkey-Qatar relations are strategic and very important for both countries, and Turkey was very helpful in overcoming the negative effects of the blockade. Therefore, relations will remain unchanged, despite the fact that Turkey may be affected by its foreign policy interest due to the changes in the Qatari foreign policy. Turkey understands that the PGCC is the natural regional environment for both Saudi Arabia and Qatar despite their differences, and Turkey would not pressure Qatar to act otherwise.

Will Qatar’s recent moves overshadow the military and political cooperation of the country with Turkey?

I don’t expect so.

Qatar and Kuwait have recently joined the US proposed Persian Gulf marine coalition. On the other hand, Iran has invited them to join Tehran’s HOPE initiative. How do you see the future of Iran’s HOPE propose?

Even though the HOPE initiative was received with attention on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf, no more advancement was witnessed in that regard. And certainly, the engagement of PGCC state members in new military coalitions that may have Iran as the main ‘target’ is incompatible with any security arrangement that includes Iran. If no improvement is witnessed in the HOPE initiative in the short term, despite the Chinese or Russian support, the proposal will be definitively abandoned or rejected.

How can a possible breakthrough in Saudi Arabia and Qatar relation affect the Tehran-Doha relation?

If Iran is the bargaining chip for the Qatari-Saudi reconciliation, the Tehran-Doha relations will be directly affected. Some of the commercial and trade agreements signed would be canceled or not implemented, and the benefits Iran obtained due to the geographical proximity and goods provision will certainly get reduced. However, it would be difficult to justify that Qatar is sacrificing its relations with Iran (nor Turkey) since its strategic value became more important than expected before the blockade. In the event of a new chapter in the PGCC crisis, then Qatar wouldn’t be able to count on Iran anymore!

Interview by Payman Yazdani

News Code 153219

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