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  • Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Thani said the Gulf Cooperation Council needs enforcement mechanisms.

    Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Thani said the Gulf Cooperation Council needs enforcement mechanisms. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 December 2018

The forum focused mainly on the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, especially on Saudi sanctions against Qatar for ties with Iran. 

The Doha Forum, a two-day policy conference titled “Shaping Policy in an Interconnected World” started Saturday in Qatar. The forum focused mainly on the regional conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and debates took place on the issue of Saudi Arabia’s sanctions on Qatar for having a close relationship with Iran.

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The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Thani delivered opening remarks Saturday, stressing the importance of diplomacy and dialogue to deal with the blockade on Qatar.

The yearly conference reached its 18th edition this year during which Qatar said it remained committed to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) but urged the bloc for a more efficient enforcement of its own rules, signaling that it could help end a row between Doha (Qatar's capitl) and some of its neighbors.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Thani said Qatar was still counting on Kuwait and other regional powers to help solve the row that has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and non-GCC member Egypt impose a political and economic boycott on Doha since June 2017.

“We believe that we are more relevant as a bloc” for the West than as separate and fragmented countries, he told the annual Doha Forum but said the GCC had “no teeth” and needed a dispute resolution mechanism.

“They have mechanisms in place and never trigger them because some countries believe they are non-binding, so we need to make sure all the rules we are submitting to are binding to everyone in this region.”

The four states accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and condem its close relationship with regional foe Iran. Doha denies the charges and says the boycott aims to curtail its sovereignty.

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Doha earlier announced it would quit the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in January 2019 to focus on cementing its position as the world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter. The move is seen as directed against OPEC's de facto ruler Saudi Arabia.

The Middle-East nation has been a member of OPEC for 57 years, beginning their membership in 1961. 

“In the Gulf crisis, our position remains unchanged - lifting the blockade and settling the differences via dialogue,” Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani told the forum.

Romania’s foreign minister, Teodor-Viorel Meleşcanu said during the forum that the European Union is working on organizing a conference that could help solve the Gulf rift.

“We are thinking about a joint event for the EU and Arab countries and we would like to have a direct discussion with the GCC countries. We hope to hold it in April and in principle, it would take place in Bucharest,” he later told Reuters.

The forum attracted over 1,700 participants.

The two-day conference will see discussions on conflict prevention and resolution, exploring traditional and non-traditional ways of security, cyber security, food security, and new dynamics of power, among others.

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