Gambia opts to remain neutral in Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gambia opts to remain neutral in Qatar diplomatic crisis

The Gambia has declined to follow in the footsteps of its neighbor to severe ties with the Gulf nation of Qatar, where the West African nation is seeking to attract investors.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt sparked the diplomatic crisis by accusing Qatar of funding terrorist organizations, withdrawing their ambassadors and imposing trade and travel bans.

The small nation, which has returned to a foreign policy of non-alignment is taken aback by the implication and expressed concerns about the worrisome nature of the situation.

Qatar has denied the allegations saying it supported the United States in the War on Terror and the ongoing military intervention against ISIL.

The Gambia called on all sides to the Gulf conflict to show restraint and to privilege dialogue and a negotiating settlement “so as to end a crisis whose elongation can only have far-reaching dire consequences for an entire region.”

“And, at a time when our noble religion is being trampled upon, with scorn and disdain in some quarters, the Ummah must be seen to be resolutely closing ranks in defense of their brothers of the region who are asking for nothing more than to be allowed to continue to live in peace, harmony and cooperation in Islamic brotherliness,” the country’s Foreign Office said.

The Gambia is a majority Sunni-Muslim country. Its former President Yahya Jammeh declared it an Islamic Republic, a decision that was swiftly rescinded by the new government of Adama Barrow to maintain its secular status.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has canceled his scheduled trip to an Organization of American States meeting in Mexico next week to focus on efforts to defuse the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, held talks in Saudi Arabia on Friday with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, continuing mediation efforts to resolve the Gulf’s biggest diplomatic crisis in years.

Tamara Kharroub, a senior analyst and assistant executive director at the Arab Center in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera the fact that Saudi Arabia says it is preparing a list of grievances rather than demands could signal it “is not intending to escalate the crisis any further.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has renewed a call for the full removal of a Saudi-led blockade imposed on Qatar and appealed to Saudi Arabia to bring a quick end to the crisis through dialogue.

“I believe that the Saudi king has the ability to resolve this crisis quickly,” Erdogan said in Istanbul, calling for an end to the diplomatic crisis before celebrations to mark the end of the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan next week.

Turkey’s Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci says his country has airlifted 5,000 tons of foodstuff to Qatar to help ease the embargo imposed by its neighbors amid a major diplomatic crisis.

The Gambia has called on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the UN, the OIC, the Arab League to conjugate efforts to bring about a speedy resolution to the impasse between Qatar and her neighbors so that normalcy could once again reign in the region.

Sultan Barakat, an academic from the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute, says the intervention of outside countries aimed at defusing the crisis makes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) look weak.

Demonstrators gathered outside the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in Britain’s capital, London, to protest against an ongoing embargo of Qatar by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and others.

The protesters denounced the land, air and sea blockade imposed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbors amid the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in years.

Qatar has yet to see any demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies as they continue an embargo on the country, according to Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

The chief executive of Sharjah National Oil Corp, UAE’s state-owned oil and gas firm, said on Sunday he does not expect flows of natural gas from Qatar to the United Arab Emirates to be interrupted by the diplomatic dispute in the region.

Saud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany, told DPA news agency: “The conflict has to be solved within the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]. But we need a strong message from our friends in Germany and Europe, that everybody has to sit down at the table.”

Qatar’s defense ministry has announced on Sunday that its troops have wrapped up joint exercise with the US forces in Al-Galayel field.

Bahrain has ordered Qatari troops serving in a coalition fighting against the ISIL group to leave its territory, the AFP news agency has reported.

(Reporting and Writing by Sainey MK Marenah; Additional Reporting from Aljazeera, AFP and DPA; Contribution and Editing by Sam Phatey)

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