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January 19, 2021 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1549

The Gulf Reconciliation: A Resounding Qatari Victory, Or A Temporary Truce In The Gulf?

January 19, 2021 | By Y. Yehoshua
Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1549

Introduction

The summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), held on January 5, 2021 in the Saudi city of Al-Ula, announced a reconciliation among the Gulf countries and the start of a new era in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, known as the Arab Quartet, ended their economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar that lasted more than three years. Led by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the move to lift the boycott was mediated by Kuwait and followed heavy pressure from the outgoing Trump administration, especially from Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. To date, the understandings that led to the Gulf reconciliation have not been disclosed.

During the years of boycott, the Quartet presented Qatar with a list of 13 conditions for restoring the relations, inter alia that Qatar sever its relations with Iran, cease its support of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), close the Turkish military base in its territory, close the Al-Jazeera channel and stop funding terror organizations. Over time, the 13 demands were pared down to 6 general principles, which, like the 13 demands, were rejected by Qatar.

Statements by officials indicate that the Gulf states have reached a secret agreement as part of which the Quartet gave up its demands, replacing them with general principles for managing the relations between the countries, such as non-infringement on states' sovereignty, non-interference in their internal affairs and cooperation in fighting threats and terror. It was also agreed that the points of contention between Qatar and its neighbors would be discussed in future bilateral talks between Qatar and each of the relevant countries.

So far, the reconciliation appears to be an essentially bilateral move by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. While Saudi Arabia signaled its determination to end the conflict with Qatar and expressed optimism about Gulf unity, its fellow Quartet members seemed dubious about the chances of achieving a full and successful reconciliation. The withdrawal of the demands posed to Qatar, and the deferment of talks on the points of contention to a future stage, constitute a victory for Qatar and prove that the boycott of it was ineffective. Qatar reconciled with its Gulf neighbors without submitting to any dictate and while maintaining its political sovereignty and independence, and did not even hesitate to stress that there has been no change in its controversial policies, such as its relations with Iran and Turkey, the conduct of Al-Jazeera, etc. 

Also, while Saudi Arabia hopes that reconciliation will help to produce a united Gulf front, so as to meet future regional challenges, it may in fact have the opposite effect: the reconciliation may divide the Gulf even further, encourage independent tendencies and distance Saudi Arabia from its natural allies, such as the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Clearly, the U.S. administration turnover was the major factor that pushed Saudi Arabia, and its allies along with it, to submit and resolve the crisis without conditions. It seems that Saudi Arabia succumbed to heavy pressure from the Trump administration, and especially from Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who attended the Al-Ula summit. In fact, Democrat U.S. senators recently launched an investigation into whether Jared Kushner’s conflicts of interest influenced U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the boycott on Qatar.[1] At the same time, reconciliation may also be motivated by Saudi Arabia's growing concerns regarding the Biden administration's future policies on issues such as the Iranian nuclear program or the Saudi human rights record. Leading the reconciliation with Qatar may burnish Saudi Arabia's image and present it as a pragmatic country seeking to resolve conflicts by peaceful means. Moreover, mending the relations with Qatar - which already enjoys good relations with the U.S. - may help consolidate Saudi Arabia's relations with the new U.S. administration.

The success of the reconciliation as a comprehensive Gulf move is doubtful. While declaring that a new era has begun, Gulf officials stress that the reconciliation cannot be completed before confidence-building measures are carried out, and that fundamental conflicts between Qatar and the Quartet still remain to be settled. If the reconciliation does prove to be successful, as Saudi Arabia hopes, its repercussions may transcend the borders of the Gulf and impact many issues in the Arab and Muslim world, and beyond.


Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman receives Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad at the airport in Al-Ula (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, January 5, 2021)

The Gulf Reconciliation: A Bilateral Saudi-Qatari Move Performed Under U.S. Pressure

After over three years of acute tension in the Gulf, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Aal Thani arrived in Saudi Arabia and was received by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman with a warm embrace. This scene, which signaled the end of the Gulf boycott of Qatar, also reflected bin Salman's active role in the reconciliation efforts and his commitment to the move. Although the reconciliation was officially launched at the GCC summit with the blessing of all the Gulf leaders, as well as Egypt, it seems to essentially be a bilateral move by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has not yet ripened into comprehensive reconciliation with the other boycotting countries - the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. While these three countries did empower bin Salman to negotiate with Qatar on their behalf, they did not hide their discomfort with the decision to end the conflict with this country on these terms. In contrast to Saudi Arabia, which signaled its determination to end the conflict and was optimistic about Gulf unity, its partners expressed skepticism about the completion of the reconciliation and its chances of success. This was most clearly evident in the absence from the summit of the leaders of the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Oman, which were represented by lower-level officials.

 The three countries' reservations about the terms of the reconciliation were also reflected in statements by their leaders, who stressed the challenges it poses. UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, for example, declared that "the disagreements are over" but noted that "confidence-building measures are necessary" and that "there are very difficult issues that will need to be resolved in the next stage."[2] Qatari Foreign Minister Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Rahman Aal Thani also admitted that "certain confidence-building measures between the countries are needed" and that it will take time for full reconciliation to be achieved. In an interview with Britain's Financial Times, he noted the gap between Saudi Arabia's commitment to the reconciliation and the reserved position of the other Quartet members, and expressed hope that in the future they "will have the same political will as the Saudis."[3]

Especially conspicuous was the reserved position of the Egyptian regime, which regards Qatar, a supporter of the MB, as an enemy seeking to overthrow it. Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi initially ignored the invitation to the summit, and at the last moment sent his foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, who, moreover, did not attend all of the summit meetings.

Furthermore, Qatari Finance Minister 'Ali Al-'Amadi, the first Qatari official to visit Egypt since the start of the boycott, received a very cool reception when he landed in Cairo several hours after the opening of the Al-Ula summit and the renewal of air traffic between Qatar and Egypt. Al-'Amadi came to attend the inauguration of a luxury hotel built by a state-owned Qatari investment company, along with his American counterpart Steven Mnuchin and Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Maait. According to the Egyptian media, he was received at the airport by staffers of the Qatari embassy, but not a single Egyptian official was present.[4]  

The Details Of The Understandings Between The Countries Remain Undisclosed; Disputes Have Been Left For Future Negotiations   

Many questions have been raised about the content of the understandings between the countries that led to the reconciliation. As stated, during the years of boycott, the Quartet presented Qatar with a list of 13 conditions for restoring the relations, which shed light on the deep disagreements between the sides. As stated, the Quartet demanded, inter alia, that Qatar sever its relations with Iran, cease its support of the MB, close the Turkish military base in its territory, close the Al-Jazeera channel and stop its funding of terror organizations. Qatar, for its part, rejected these demands, calling them baseless and an infringement on its independence and sovereignty. Furthermore, during the last three years, Qatar tightened its ties with Iran and Turkey in order to overcome the financial difficulties caused by the boycott, and also acted to increase its cooperation with the U.S.[5] The 13 demands eventually became a list of six general principles with which Qatar was required to comply, including stopping the incitement, fighting terror and avoiding interference in the internal affairs of the other countries. These principles too were rejected by Qatar.[6]

It appears that, in the latest reconciliation talks led by Muhammad bin Salman, the countries of the Arab Quartet withdrew their conditions, both the original 13 demands and the six principles. Moreover, it is so far unclear what understandings have been reached between the countries. The reconciliation announcement was not accompanied by any details regarding an agreement or understandings on the disputed issues.

Although the details of the reconciliation agreement have not been disclosed, it reportedly includes several very general principles for resolving the crisis and managing future relations, such as respect for countries' sovereignty and non-interference in their internal affairs, and cooperation in fighting security threats and terror.[7] The countries have also agreed that the points of contention will be discussed in bilateral talks between Qatar and each of the Quartet members. Qatari Foreign Minister 'Abd Al-Rahman Aal Thani said that "basic principles for managing the future relations between the countries have been agreed upon," but that "no terms have been set [for renewing the relations] between any of the states." He explained that the agreement is a general one that does not go into details because "the controversies between Qatar and each state are different" and will therefore be discussed in separate bilateral talks. Regarding the secrecy around the agreement, he said: "The agreement is not secret, but it has not been decided whether to publish it or not," and added that "there is nothing in it that could embarrass any of the countries."[8]


January 6, 2021 cartoon in Qatari Al-Sharq daily: "Our Gulf is one"

The deferment of contentious issues to future talks places the reconciliation at risk, especially since statements by Qatari officials indicate that Qatar has no intention of changing its policies. For example, addressing the matter of Al-Jazeera, which has been accused by the Quartet members of inciting against them and striving to undermine their stability, the Qatari foreign minister said that "this issue did not come up" in the reconciliation talks, and added: "As we have said in the past, Al-Jazeera is an independent media body and we Qataris are proud of it and its employees. We guarantee both freedom of expression and responsible coverage of regional events."

As for Turkey, whose alliance with Qatar is seen as a threat by the Quartet, and especially by the UAE, Aal Thani said: "Turkey is a strategic ally of Qatar. We cooperate with it and are allied with it in many domains. The GCC states' bilateral relations with other countries are determined according to the sovereign decision and national interests of each state… The disputes between Turkey and some of the GCC countries stem from bilateral factors that bear no direct relation to Qatar." [9]     

It should be noted that media reports on the reconciliation also made no mention of Qatar's support of the MB, which all the Quartet countries have designated as a terror organization. Furthermore, MB-affiliated elements welcomed the reconciliation, which further increases speculation that Qatar has not changed its approach to the MB.

These Qatari positions left Gulf officials deeply in doubt regarding the possibility of settling the controversies with Qatar. UAE Foreign Minister Gargash disclosed that, despite the reconciliation, the Gulf states and Qatar were still deeply divided on geo-strategic issues. "One of the big things," he said, "will be the geostrategic dimensions, how do we see regional threats, how do we see the Turkish presence?... How is Qatar going to deal vis-à-vis interfering in our affairs through support of political Islam? Is Turkey’s presence in the Gulf going to be permanent?"[10]

The media of the Quartet countries raised similar questions. The UAE-owned daily Al-Arab, based in London, published an article titled "Qatari Media Campaigns Go On Despite Gulf Reconciliation Agreement," which stated that Al-Jazeera continues its attacks on the UAE and especially against its involvement in Yemen. This reinforces speculation that Qatar has no intention of changing its policy on the major issues of contention with the UAE, primarily the issue of Yemen, the article said.[11]

The Bahraini and Egyptian media also expressed doubts about the reconciliation. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Ibrahim, editor of the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khalij, wrote on the day of the Al-Ula summit: "We hope for the success [of the summit] on the economic level, but we have doubts regarding the reconciliation and the crisis with Qatar." He explained: "Qatar has no intention of giving up its support of extremist and political Islam organizations, especially the MB movement. Nor will it give up its support of Al-Qaeda in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, the terrorist extremists in Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine's Gaza Strip… or its alliance with Turkey… It does not want to sever its close relations with Iran, either, for it wishes to mediate in any future negotiation between Washington and Tehran after Biden enters the White House."[12]

In the same daily, the columnist Al-Sayyid Zahra wrote: "Qatar is making a bitter mistake if it thinks that just signing the closing statement of the Al-Ula summit brings a definitive end to the crisis… Qatar is now required to prove for certain that its intentions are good and to display genuine political will to end the crisis… Qatar must understand that if it is proven after a time that it is not interested in or is not serious about solving the existing, remaining problems which incited the crisis there will not be anything to cause or compel the boycott countries to agree to the situation. In other words, it is not inconceivable that the crisis will return to its starting point if there is no visible and significant change in Qatar's political positions and its conduct."[13]    

Ahmad Abu Al-Ma'ati, a columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote: "Is the embrace given by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to the Qatari Emir hours before the launching of the Al-Ula summit enough to end the Gulf boycott of Qatar, which has lasted three years, and erase from our memory the magnitude of the violations committed in the last decade by the Qatari regime against Egypt and against the GCC states?... The answer is obviously no. Assuming that Qatar is really interested in reconciliation, can it give up its support of the MB and stop funding [the MB's] military branches in many Arab and Muslim countries, from Syria and Egypt to Malaysia, Nigeria and Libya? Can it stop funding the many programs aired on Al-Jazeera and on [other] fitna [i.e., civil war] channels in Turkey? Does the Qatari regime have the courage to dismantle the Turkish military base in Doha, even as a gesture of good will?"[14]


January 6, 2021 cartoon in the Qatari daily Al-Watan: The Gulf states seal the door of "discord" and march towards a new dawn

A Victory For Qatar And A Saudi Hope Of Achieving Gulf Unity, Halting Iran's Plans

The Arab Quartet's withdrawal of the terms it presented to Qatar, and the postponement of negotiations on disputed matters to a later stage, are a big victory for Qatar, which has managed to weather the boycott while retaining its independence and rejecting any subordination or submission to the Quartet's dictates. Furthermore, it seems that Qatar intends to continue pursuing an independent foreign policy, at odds with that of the GCC, even after the reconciliation. An editorial of the Qatari London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily went so far as to claim that the reconciliation, under the present terms, "legitimizes independent policies by [other] Gulf countries [as well], and this was one of the factors that motivated countries like Kuwait to intervene and stop the escalation of the Gulf [crisis]."[15] Qatar's moves drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the other GCC states, which are displeased with the reconciliation as led by Saudi Arabia.

While the Qatari victory is clear, it is unclear what has been achieved by the Quartet countries, especially by Saudi Arabia, which led the reconciliation efforts. These countries apparently came to the conclusion that the boycott was ineffective, and that rapprochement with Qatar might yield better results, whether in the form of Qatari and international investments in the region, Qatari mediation vis-à-vis Turkey, an end to Al-Jazeera's incitement, a removal from the public agenda of human rights issues such as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Qatari assistance in resolving the Yemen crisis, etc.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, mentioned only one motive for the reconciliation with Qatar:  the need to form a united front against Iran. For years, since the reign of King 'Abdullah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, Saudi Arabia has been trying, unsuccessfully, to form such a front against the Iranian nuclear threat, but the insistence of other countries to maintain their independence foiled this attempt. Fear that the Biden administration will resume Obama's policy and renew the agreement with Iran prompted Saudi Arabia to resume its efforts to heal the rifts in the Gulf. Concerned about the Iranian nuclear program, and even more so about Iranian interference in the Arab states and in particular in Yemen, Saudi Arabia wants to ensure its inclusion in any future negotiations with Iran under the Biden administration, in contrast to its exclusion during the Obama era. It also seeks to expand the scope of the negotiations to include Iran's ballistic missiles and its interference in Arab countries. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said in this context: "Generally speaking, we expect that we and our regional allies will be fully consulted on any negotiations with Iran."[16]

Saudi Arabia believes that a united Gulf front will turn the countries of the region, and particularly Saudi Arabia itself, into a major force. A reconciliation in the Gulf will also burnish Saudi Arabia's reputation as a positive player that settles conflicts peacefully, through diplomacy and dialogue. Qatar, which has good relations with Iran and also mediated between the U.S. and the Taliban in Afghanistan, may in turn benefit Saudi Arabia by serving as a mediator between the Gulf and Iran. At the same time, opening Saudi Arabia's border with Qatar may facilitate a military option vis-à-vis Iran, should diplomacy fail.

Furthermore, the Gulf reconciliation will deal a blow to Iran by depriving it of the Qatari overflight fees. The boycott of Qatar, as part of which Qatari planes were banned from entering Saudi airspace, forced Qatari air traffic to fly over Iran, which charges fees for the use of its airspace. According to reports, Doha has paid Tehran over $100 million a year for the use of its airspace, thus alleviating Iran's economic crisis. The U.S. reportedly pushed for an end to the boycott in order to stem this influx of revenues that was undermining its pressure on the Iranian regime.[17] Bin Salman's focus on Iran in his speech at the Al-Ula summit reflects the importance his country places on this issue in its efforts to achieve reconciliation in the Gulf. The Crown Prince said: "Today more than ever, we need to unite our efforts in order to wake up and address the challenges surrounding us, especially the threats of the Iranian regime's nuclear program and ballistic missile program, and the destructive plans of this regime and its proxies, such as their terrorist and sectarian [plans], aimed at undermining the region's security and stability. This compels us to call on the international community to take serious action towards ending these plans, which threaten the peace and security of the region and the world."[18]         

The closing statement of the Al-Ula summit, signed by all the participating countries, including Qatar, harshly condemned the Iranian policy as well. It called on Iran to stop threatening its neighbors, interfering in their affairs, exacerbating sectarian conflicts, supporting and funding terrorist organizations, and targeting the security and safety of navigation, maritime installations and oil facilities. It also stated that the three islands disputed between Iran and the UAE - Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Moussa - belong to the UAE, and urged the world countries to oppose Iran's policies and its support of terror. It stressed that any negotiation with Iran must address its conduct, which jeopardizes regional stability, as well as its nuclear program and ballistic missiles. It condemned Iran's support of the Houthis in Yemen, its infringement on the sovereignty of Iraq and its presence in Syria. It also welcomed the U.S. administration's designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, and called to continue the sanctions on Iran.[19]


The Emir of Qatar signs the closing statement of the Al-Ula summit (Almayadeen.net, January 5, 2021)

The need for Gulf unity in the face of the Iranian threat was also addressed in many articles in the Saudi media. The January 7, 2021 editorial of the daily 'Okaz stressed the importance of such unity given the threats posed by Iran and Turkey. It stated: "The success of the Al-Ula summit was a sore blow to the Turkish and Iranian regimes. The rapprochement within the Gulf, and the rapprochement between the Gulf and the [other] Arabs that will follow, will help to curb the meddling of these two apostate regimes [of Turkey and Iran] in the Arabs' affairs. Moreover, the summit formulated a long-term strategy for managing the relations with these two countries and confronting their dubious actions in the Arab region."[20]

Another article, by Saudi columnist Yahya Al-Amir, stated: "The free world is uniting today against the Iranian regime, which is the most dangerous regime in the world, and against terror and extremism. It is uniting in the face of all the challenges in the domains of security, energy and health. Accordingly, [we] must revitalize the GCC - the region's largest umbrella organization - and renavigate it towards a future that will ensure [our ability] to confront all the dangers and challenges facing the region."[21] Columnist Saleh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Karim wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Madina that the Al-Ula summit "brought happiness and joy to the people of the Gulf because it united the ranks and paved the way to future cooperation and mutual assistance, which will enable us to defend ourselves against the enemies lying in wait for us, especially the enemies within the region and in particular Iran. These [enemies] will die of envy when they see us joining hands, after our hearts have already joined."[22]  


Cartoon in Saudi daily: Iran fumes over "Gulf reconciliation" (Al-Riyad, Saudi Arabia, January 7, 2021)

Despite the harsh language against Iran in the summit's closing statement, to which the Qatari Emir was a signatory, Qatar also voiced completely different messages on the Iranian issue. Qatari Foreign Minister Muhammad 'Abd Al-Rahman Aal Thani told the Financial Times that "bilateral relationships are mainly driven by a sovereign decision of the country … [and] the national interest, so there is no effect on our relationship with any other country."[23] In an interview on Al-Jazeera he said: "There is no connection between the settling of the GCC [conflict] and the escalation vis-à-vis Iran." He said further: "Iran is a neighboring country and we appreciate the role it played during the crisis [i.e., the Gulf boycott of Qatar] when it opened its airspace to Qatar, granted it easements in its seaports, etc. There are disagreements among the GCC states regarding the policy towards Iran. Some countries have direct conflicts with Iran, while others enjoy good and positive relations with it."[24] 

Aal Thani made similar statements regarding Qatar's ally Turkey, which is likewise perceived by the Arab Quartet as posing an external threat and seeking to undermine the stability of the region. He said: "Turkey is a strategic ally of Qatar. We cooperate with it and are allied with it in many domains. The GCC states' bilateral relations with other countries are determined by the sovereign decision and national interests of each country, and should not be confused with intra-GCC relations. The disputes between Turkey and some of the GCC countries stem from bilateral factors that bear no direct relation to Qatar." [25]

No Mention Of The Normalization With Israel

Furthermore, while the summit's closing statement dealt extensively with the Iranian issue, it made no mention of the normalization and peace agreements recently signed by some Arab countries with Israel. This is especially conspicuous given that two of the GCC member states - the UAE and Bahrain - were the first countries that signed these agreements, with Saudi Arabia's blessing and with the mediation of the Trump administration. In general, it seems that the countries that were reluctant to reconcile with Qatar were precisely the ones that openly maintain relations with Israel, whereas the main players in the reconciliation - Saudi Arabia and Qatar - currently eschew normalization and make it conditional upon settling the Palestinian issue in the framework of the Arab peace initiative. The closing statement's disregard of the normalization agreements reinforces the conclusion that the reconciliation is a bilateral move between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, more than it is a comprehensive Gulf initiative. In fact, the reconciliation even weakens the moderate Gulf states that signed the normalization agreements with Israel.  

It should be noted that, while disregarding the normalization with Israel, the closing statement did mention the Arab peace initiative, which developed from an initiative by then then-Saudi Crown Prince 'Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz. A mention of the Arab peace initiative in the context of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could considerably boost Saudi Arabia's prestige. However, it should also be noted that this initiative, in its present form, which calls for realizing the Palestinian right of return,[26] actually serves those who seek to perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including in the PA and Hamas. The funds transferred by Qatar to Hamas, which ensure relative calm in Gaza, may be another reason that motivated the U.S. to support the Gulf reconciliation.     

Contacts have recently been underway to promote a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and hold elections in the Palestinian territories, in order to prepare the political ground for the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with the encouragement of the Biden administration. It is not beyond conjecture that these developments too are directly linked to the Gulf reconciliation. The reconciliation with Qatar could also affect the Gulf states' relations with Turkey. It appears that some of the Quartet countries are eying rapprochement with Turkey, Qatar's ally and fellow MB supporter. According to reports, there has been a certain warming in Saudi-Turkish relations, following a long period of rivalry between them. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have also toned down their media attacks on Turkey, and officials from both sides have opened channels of communication.[27] Time will tell whether these moves will lead to reconciliation and cooperation with Turkey, just as time will reveal the fate of the Gulf reconciliation with Qatar.  

* Y. Yehoshua is Vice President for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel.

 

[1] Suspicions have been raised that the Trump administration's policy towards the Gulf crisis was influenced by the involvement of the Gulf countries in a real-estate deal that rescued Kushner's company from financial ruin. See e.g., The Independent (UK), February 12, 2019, finance.senate.gov, December 9, 2020.

[2] Skynewsarabia.com, January 11, 2021.

[3] Financial Times (UK), January 7, 2021.

[4] Akhbar Al-Yawm, Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 6, 2021.

[6] Bbc.com/arabic, July 21, 2017.

[7] See January 8, 2021 statements by Qatari Foreign Minister 'Abd Al-Rahman Aal Thani in the Qatari daily Al-Raya, and statements by UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, Skynewsarabia.com, January 11, 2021.

[8] Al-Raya (Qatar), January 8, 2021.

[9] Al-Raya (Qatar), January 8, 2021.

[10] Financial Times (UK), January 7, 2021.

[11] Al-Arab (London), January 8, 2021. For an English translation of the article, see thearabweekly.com, January 8, 2021.

[12] Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), January 5, 2021.

[13] Akhbar Al-Khalij (Bahrain), January 19, 2020.

[14] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 8, 2021.

[15] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 6, 2021.

[16] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), December 20, 2020. Similar sentiments were expressed by Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi, who said that the countries of the region must be included in any future dialogue on the nuclear agreement with Iran, and that such dialogue must also address Iran's interference in the region and the issue of its missile project. See elaph.com, January 6, 2021.

[17] Nytimes.com, December 2, 2020.

[18] Alarabiya.net, January 5, 2021.

[19] Aljazeera.com, January 1, 2021.

[20] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 7, 2021.

[21] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 10, 2021.

[22] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), January 7, 2021.

[23] Financial Times (UK), January 7, 2021.

[24] Al-Raya (Qatar), January 8, 2021.

[25] Al-Raya (Qatar), January 8, 2021.

[26] The Saudi peace plan initiated by King 'Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz did not include any mention of the Palestinian refugees' right of return to Israel or right to compensation. This issue was later added to what became known as the Arab peace plan under pressure from Syria and Lebanon, by incorporating a mention of UN Resolution 194. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 364 President of Tel-Aviv University: 'The Warped Saudi Initiative', April 9, 2002.

[27] In late November 2020, it was reported that Saudi King Salman bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spoken on the phone and agreed to "keep the channels of communication open so as to develop the bilateral relations and resolve problems" (Alkhaleejonline.net, November 21, 2020). Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who later tweeted: "We place importance on our relations with Saudi Arabia… A strong partnership between Turkey and Saudi Arabia benefits not only the two countries but the entire region" (Aljazeera.net, November 27, 2020). Bin Farhan, for his part, said several days prior to this that his country has "friendly relations" with Turkey and there is no official Saudi boycott of Turkish goods (Alhurra.com, November 21, 2020). In addition, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu revealed lately that he had met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in several international forums and that they had both stressed the need to set out a roadmap for the relations between their countries (Rai Al-Yawm, London, December 30, 2020). The UAE took a more reserved position. Its foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, said that his country was interested in maintaining "normal relations [with Turkey], in which each country respects the sovereignty of the other." He added that the UAE "wants Ankara to stop being the main supporter of the MB," and explained that there is "considerable sensitivity in the region regarding the role of the MB and its incitement, and [Turkey's] endorsement of this group does not serve its relations with the Arabs" (Al-Bayan, UAE, January 1, 2021).

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