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Despite Rapprochement With Gulf Countries, Qatar Will Not Normalize Relations With Israel

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani upon his arrival to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout

Despite a rapprochement between Qatar and several Arab states that recently normalized relations with Israel, the Gulf nation says that it will not be establishing relations with the Jewish state.

Independent Qatari online news outlet Doha News reported Sunday that Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani ruled out normalization with Israel in an interview with the Al Jazeera Arabic network, though he said that Qatar does not oppose other countries doing so.

“Qatar believes that if Israel is committed to peace, to end the occupation, the two-state solution, and the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and if there is Arab approval, we accept that,” he said.

However, Al-Thani added, “The Abraham Accords is a sovereign decision and we do not interfere in sovereign decisions.”

Under the Accords, brokered by the United States in August 2020, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize relations with Israel. Both Sudan and Morocco later agreed to join the framework.

A Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting Tuesday saw an easing of tensions between Qatar and other members, such as Saudi Arabia. For several years, the former had been at odds with a loose confederation of Arab states opposed to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, with which Qatar maintains close ties. Israel has also been particularly concerned with Qatar’s financial aid to the terrorist group Hamas.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE imposed an embargo and travel ban on Qatar in 2017, but the new GCC reconciliation will substantially ease these restrictions, beginning in as soon as one week.

Despite the new agreement, however, Qatar says it will not change its controversial relationship with Iran or Turkey.

Al-Thani told the Financial Times Thursday 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,” he said.

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