Any breakthrough in Qatar, SA relation will strain Turkey: Prof. Zonis

TEHRAN, Dec. 10 (MNA) – Marvin Zonis, Professor of international political economy and leadership at the University of Chicago says if Qatar and Saudi repair their relationship, it will certainly strain the relation between Qatar and Turkey

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani did not attend the Gulf summit in Riyadh on Tuesday, dampening hopes of reconciliation between Doha and a Saudi-led bloc that imposed a punishing blockade 30 months ago.

He named Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani to lead the Qatari delegation to the 40th Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) summit, the official Qatar News Agency reported today.

Recently 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.

The issue was discussed in an interview with Marvin Zonis, Professor of international political economy and leadership at the University of Chicago.

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?

It is always difficult to decipher the policies of the [Persian] Gulf States. However, I was impressed by the visit of the Qatari foreign minister to Riyadh. I assume that the visit was the result of an attempt by both Crown Prince MBS and the Qatari Emir, Tamim bin Hamad, to reach an understanding that would provide a face-saving way for the Saudis to drop their boycott of Qatar. Qatar’s pledging to halt support for the Brotherhood would be a useful step to help bring this about. I have also been impressed by the visit of Foreign Minister Zarif to Kuwait, with which Iran has had close relations…The visit seems to me to presage the general warming of relations between Iran and its neighbors across the Persian Gulf.

Reuters also has 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?

If Qatar and Saudi repair their relationship, it will certainly strain the relation between Qatar and Turkey. President Erdogan right now is in no mood to back down to the Qataris. He is on a high given his entry into Syrian Kurdistan and his ties with President Trump (who never met a string man he didn’t like).

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

I see no reason for Turkey to stop selling military equipment to Qatar. But that is a minor issue compared to the thousands of Turkish troops stationed in an abandoned British military base in Qatar. It is hard to imagine that Qatar could have new and close relations with the Saudis and also maintain its close ties with Turkey. But I believe that is clearly what Qatar will try to do. Those ties have certainly deepened since the Saudis imposed their sanctions. Turkish schools and a Turkish hospital, for example, have all been built in Qatar since then.

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 initiation. How do you see the future of Iran’s HOPE propose?

I think it would be unwise to ignore the extent to which the PGCC countries and Saudi Arabia will seek better relations with Iran. Now that President Trump appears to be washing his hands of the entire problem of the Saudis and the PGCC countries, those countries see the need, not to rely on any American support, but to seek to improve their relations with Iran. In other words, the timing of the HOPE initiative is perfect.

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

I think improving relations between Iran and Qatar is perfectly natural and mutually beneficial. Given that, a loosening of the freeze between the two countries is natural and will gradually occur.

European coalition led by France in the Persian Gulf is stationed in UAE, on the other hand countries such as Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait have also joined the US-led coalition. How will these two US and European coalitions cooperate with each other? Will there be any rivalry between them?

To the extent that President Trump continues to depreciate the Europeans, there will be a rivalry. But it is also likely that the foreign bureaucracies of the EU and the US will do their best to preserve close ties with each other.

Interview by Payman Yazdani

News Code 153259

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