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Qatar solution still elusive, one year on

By Liu Xuan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-05 09:33

It has almost been a year since a Saudi Arabia-led quartet put an embargo on Qatar, but there are still no signs of a solution to the diplomatic crisis, said a Chinese expert.

Indeed, on May 26, Doha said it was banning products originating from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, as Qatar's Government Communications Office said it was trying to "protect the safety of consumers".

The order came just days before the anniversary of the embargo, which was launched last June when the four countries cut all economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Zou Zhiqiang, a researcher from the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, said the crisis may not be effectively alleviated any time soon.

"Both parties have the desire to solve the problem, but none would want to compromise on differences," he said. "Related countries hope to resolve the crisis as soon as possible to reduce the loss of their strategic resources and prestige."

Regional efforts to resolve the dispute continue as the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah has sent envoys with letters to the leaders of Qatar, Oman and the UAE, but there has been no sign of progress on the impasse, according to Xinhua.

"Our mediation has not been easy," said Kuwait's Ambassador to Britain, Khaled al-Duwaisan, speaking at the annual Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum on May 12, while adding that "the issues can and should be settled by negotiations".

Rory Miller, professor of international relations with Georgetown University in Qatar, said in an interview that none of the parties have a real reason right now to make major concessions, according to Xinhua.

Zou also said broader regional issues are complicating the problem.

"There are conflicts on the policies to Gaza's ruling Hamas and Iran. It's hard for Qatar to unilaterally make fundamental changes, adding more impossibility to breaking the ice within a short time."

In the early days of the embargo, Qatar suffered in terms of its economy, trade, air traffic and foreign relations. But after the short-term shocks and turmoil, Zou said the impact was not as great as expected.

The researcher also said Doha's latest ban shows that the country, to a greater extent, has been economically independent from Saudi Arabia and other countries after its efforts to open up external markets and channels.

"Qatar has strengthened its autonomy in economics and diplomacy, and thus has the courage to take the initiative with 'anti-sanction' measures, and show its attitude of not compromising easily," he said.

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