The World Cup is over. Will Qatar honor the AlUla agreement?

Qatar did not agree to the 13 conditions imposed by the boycotting countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and experts expect Qatar to return to its previous activities

 A general view shows Pearl Island, an artificial island spanning nearly four square kilometres, ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup soccer tournament at Katara Cultural Village in Doha, Qatar November 17, 2022. (photo credit: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)
A general view shows Pearl Island, an artificial island spanning nearly four square kilometres, ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup soccer tournament at Katara Cultural Village in Doha, Qatar November 17, 2022.
(photo credit: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Two years have passed since the AlUla agreement, which ended the four-year boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but the relationships between the countries, particularly Bahrain and the UAE, have not been reset.

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Experts predicted that there would be a return to the confrontation between Qatar and the four boycott countries after the end of the World Cup last month, since the agreement was viewed as a truce to ensure the success of the global event in Doha.

The AlUla Statement, a reconciliation agreement announced by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on January 4, 2021 marking an end to the diplomatic crisis with Qatar, was signed by Gulf leaders in the northern Saudi Arabian city AlUla on January 5, 2021.

The AlUla agreement was supposed to end the Gulf crisis that began on June 5, 2017, when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain declared a comprehensive boycott of Qatar, including the withdrawal of all diplomatic missions and the closure of land, sea and air borders to planes and Qatari citizens; as well as not allowing Qataris to visit those countries unless they held a special permit, and halting all commercial, cultural and personal transactions. Meanwhile, narrow security coordination remained in place. At the time, the Gulf states justified the boycott by accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism, harboring members of the Muslim Brotherhood, allowing foreign militaryforces on its soil, and continuing its relationship with Iran. In addition, the states pointedto what they said were Qatar's actions against the interests of the boycotting countries and Qatar's support for Gulf and Egyptian coup movements, as well as other accusations.

 Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Katara Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar - November 23, 2022 General view of pedestrians walking past a mural (credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters) Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Katara Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar - November 23, 2022 General view of pedestrians walking past a mural (credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

What are the conditions of the boycotting countries?

The boycotting countries then set 13 conditions for reconciliation with Qatar, the most prominent of which was that it reduce its level of diplomatic relations with Iran, expel any element of the Revolutionary Guards present on its territory, and not undertake any commercial activity with Iran that contradicts US sanctions.

Other conditions included: closing the Turkish military base in Doha; shuttering Al-Jazeera, which is accused of provoking unrest in the region; ceasing to interfere in the internal and external affairs of the four countries; stopping the naturalization of citizens of those countries; expelling those who have already been naturalized; and handingover wanted persons accused of terrorism cases who are residing in Qatar.

The conditions also included refraining from supporting or financing associations andorganizations that the four countries and the United States classify as terrorist, andsevering Doha’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah, al-Qaida and theIslamic State.

However, the AlUla agreement did not directly address the 13 conditions, and thesignatories to the agreement did not specify whether Qatar had met the conditions or whether the conditions had been waived. According to the AlUla agreement, negotiations should have taken place between Qatar and each of the four boycotting countries separately within a year of signing the agreement, in order to end the differences between them and to restore diplomatic, commercial and other relations.

In the two years since the signing of the agreement, there have been no statementsissued about negotiations taking place between Qatar and the four boycottingcountries. There have been some visits, however: the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim AlThani, visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE; and visits to Qatar were undertaken byEgyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, andUAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Bahrain has remained on the sidelines, though its foreign minister, Dr. Abdul Latif Al-Zayani, announced that the country contacted Qatar to set a date for negotiations butsaid that the latter did not respond, according to the statement. There have been novisits on either side, though there was a photo that showed the king of Bahrain, Hamadbin Isa Al Khalifa, together with the Qatari emir on the sidelines of the Jeddah Summitfor Security and Development held in Saudi Arabia in the presence of US President JoeBiden on July 16, 2022.Qatar, in turn, did not respond officially or unofficially to any of Bahrain's statements,and media outlets have not reported on the fate of  relations between Qatar andBahrain.

Qatar appointed ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and both of those countriesdispatched ambassadors to Doha. However, two years after the agreement, Qatar'sembassies are still closed in both Bahrain and the UAE, and no ambassadors have beenappointed, just as the embassies of Bahrain and the UAE remain closed in Doha.

A source in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) General Secretariat told The Media Line:"No negotiations took place between Bahrain and Qatar. No session was held at all."

The source added: "Limited negotiation sessions also took place between Qatar andUAE, and they did not lead to anything. Qatar was completely focused on organizing theWorld Cup, but the negotiations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt took place as required."The source also said that there have been “many messages and pending matters”between Qatar and the UAE and Bahrain, and that the GCC General Secretariat isfollowing up on the issues.

"No negotiations took place between Bahrain and Qatar. No session was held at all."

GCC Source

The source refused to address the 13 conditions set by the boycotting countries, and whether Qatar agreed to implement them or not, but confirmed that "a complete agreement has not been reached." The source pointed out that, during the last Gulf summit that took place during the visit of the Chinese president to Saudi Arabia, there was no talk about the fate of the AlUla agreement and whether most of its provisions had been implemented or not, and thatthe summit was limited to general issues and those involving the visit of the Chinese president and the Gulf’s relations with China. Among the issues that has been disputed between the boycotting countries and Qatar isthe issue of granting Qatari nationality to families from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. These countries accuse Doha of offering Qatari citizenship to people who hold political or military positions in their countries, or are affiliated with those close to power.

Among the 13 conditions that it put before Doha in 2017, the Gulf states demanded the return of these families to their countries of origin, which has not happened, while Qatar continues its campaign to attract the children of these families to Doha. Ibrahim Al-Rumaihi, a Bahraini national, moved to Doha with his family several yearsago. "My father used to work in the military service in Bahrain, earning a salary of about 2,000 Bahraini dinars ($5,300), but his cousin in Qatar works in the same field and receives a salary of 80,000 Qatari riyals (about $21,000),” he told The Media Line.

“We have many relatives in Qatar. We got an offer to move to Doha, in exchange for my father receiving a salary of more than 100,000 Qatari riyals ($26,500), and obtaining Qatari citizenship, in addition to a residential plot of 1,000 square meters, and a grant to build on this land,” he added. "This is an offer not to be missed," he said. "There are many who got similar offers, and the offers are still going on."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which the four countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Emirates,and Bahrain – classify as a terror organization, is still operating out of Qatar’s capital,and the countries have demanded the expulsion of its members from Doha.

The leader of the Brotherhood, cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, died in September 2022 inDoha. "I cannot return to Egypt, but there has been no restriction on our activities in Doha,"Khaled S, an Egyptian citizen who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and resides in Qatar, told The Media Line. "We feel safe here. No one asked us to leave or reduce our activities. My father is imprisoned in Egypt." He added, "They offered the Qatari nationality to some of the group's members but, as for me, I have the nationality of a Western country, and I do not need an Arab nationality."

Abdulaziz Al-Enezi, a Saudi political analyst, told The Media Line that, after the AlUla agreement, “many expected that Qatar would stop funding campaigns directed againstSaudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, but this did not happen.""The Belgian Court of Justice confirmed the existence of Qatari funding for human rightsorganizations headed by the Italian Antonio Panzieri, who, despite the AlUla agreement,tried by Qatari orders to organize many activities against Saudi Arabia, and demandedthat measures be taken against the Saudi leadership in the Jamal Khashoggi case," hesaid.

"Paneziri also attacked Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and supported many opposition figures or those accused of terrorism in these countries," he added. Qatar has not acted on any of the 13 conditions, according to Al-Enezi. “What happened is a temporary truce for the success of organizing the World Cup only, and Doha willreturn to practices that harm Gulf interests more," he asserted. Regarding Egypt, Al-Enezi said: "It seems that Qatar is trying to gain a foothold in Egypt, in order to be able to restore the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is in itsweakest state. There are Qatari investments in Egypt." Junaid Al-Shammari, a Saudi political analyst, said that Qatar’s “soft war against the Gulf states will return with force. The AlUla agreement was just a truce. Qatar still supportsterrorist groups, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is still present on its territory, in addition to the Turkish forces."

"Al-Jazeera also did not stop its hostile activity against the four countries, but it increased after the end of the World Cup," he added.

He also said that: "Qatar is also still trying to lure some original Gulf families to come totheir lands and obtain Qatari nationality and a lot of money, in return for leaving theircountries of origin and attacking them.” He added that "although the Al-Murrah tribe is suffering in Qatar, and its situation has not been corrected, Qatar has continued attempts to attract Gulf families, many of whom work in sensitive positions in their countries, whether political, security, military or other positions."Sufian Samarrai, an Iraqi politician and chairman of the Baghdad Post website, haspublished news and tweets that warn that the "next danger" is the Qatari-Iranian naval military agreement, which allows the stationing of all Iranian military naval sectors at a distance of 5 km from Bahrain. Qatari journalist Salem Al-Mohannadi told The Media Line that Qatar “won” in the Gulfdispute. “It did not give up any of its principles, nor did it respond to the unjustconditions set by the boycotting countries," he said."The AlUla agreement was not a Qatari concession at all. The countries that started theboycott are the ones who have come to their senses," he said, adding: "Now Qatar willnot restore its relations with any country except according to its own terms. Qatar'spolicy is clear, it seeks its interests, and it succeeded in this policy, from which it wasmade a great country and an important player in world politics." "Qatar also supports freedoms and, as for the countries that boycotted us, they greatly offended Qatar, and bet on the failure of Qatar to host the World Cup, which did not happen," Al-Mohannadi continued.

"Qatar cannot forget the offense and, as for the various countries that are trying to impose their dictates on Qatar, Doha will not allow it to impose its conditions on it, and therefore there has been no reconciliation with Bahrain so far," he asserted. “Nothing will happen after the World Cup. Things will continue in the interest of Qatar,because it has drawn up a clear policy, and even its relations – whether with Iran, Turkey or other countries – are in the interest of the region. We must not think about the conflict, but about dialogue."

He stressed that "Qatar does not need any other country now. During the blockade imposed by the four countries, Qatar was able to establish all its issues, such as food security, diplomatic issues and others, and now it does not need any Gulf country."