Gulf crisis: Saudis use 2013 'secret accord' to pile pressure on Qatar

#GulfTensions

Riyadh says Doha has broken terms of hand-written agreements that pledged to end interference, as Arab states continue Qatar blockade

A man writes on a mural in support of Qatar's emir, Tamim, in Doha (Reuters)
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Wednesday 12 July 2017 8:08 UTC
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A Saudi Arabian-led quartet of Arab states is seeking to pile pressure on Qatar over charges it backs terrorism, saying the publication of previously secret accords between Riyadh and Doha showed Qatar broke a promise not to meddle in the affairs of Gulf countries.

The handwritten text of the 2013 and 2014 accords, whose existence was known but whose contents had never been made public, was published by CNN on Monday and later released on social media by Saudi officials.

In a joint statement, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said the publication of the accords, meant to settle a dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, "confirms beyond any doubt Qatar's failure to meet its commitments and its full violation of its pledges".

In the first 2013 agreement, Gulf states vow not to support "antagonistic media" - an apparent reference to Qatar's Al Jazeera, which the Saudi Quartet accuses of attacking regional powers.

A second agreement headlined "top secret" and dated 16 November 2014, states signatories will prevent Al Jazeera from being used to challenge the Egyptian government.

A supplemental document to the 2013 agreement includes provisions for barring the Muslim Brotherhood. The agreements do not single out Qatar, as the provisions included apply to all countries who signed it.

Amid fresh tension with Qatar, the four slapped sanctions on Doha on 5 June, accusing it of supporting terrorism, cosying up to Iran, backing the Muslim Brotherhood - the world's oldest Islamist organisation - and interference in their affairs.

The four say Qatar pledged to desist from interfering in its neighbours' politics in the 2013 agreement.

Qatar has rejected the charges and said the four countries are trying to impose their own views on its foreign policies.

The documents surfaced as the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, arrived in the region to help Washington's allies hammer out a solution to the crisis.

In response, Qatar accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of breaking the spirit of the Riyadh agreement and engaging in an "unwarranted and unprecedented attack on Qatar's sovereignty".

The Riyadh accord aimed to enhance cooperation between sovereign Gulf Arab states and avoid interference in their internal affairs, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) said.

Kuwaiti mediation efforts hit a snag last week when the four Arab states said they were disappointed with Qatar's response to their list of 13 demands.

Muslim Brotherhood

Qatar said the demands, which included ending support for militant groups, the closure of the Al Jazeera TV channel, shutting down a Turkish military base in Qatar and downgrading ties with Iran, were an infringement of its sovereignty.

QNA reported Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed al-Thani, director of Qatar's government communications, as saying the 13 demands bore no relation to the Riyadh accord and the latest crisis was the result of a coordinated media campaign against Qatar.

"Some of the allegations and demands of the siege countries have no basis, while others were an unwarranted and unprecedented attack on the sovereignty of the state of Qatar in violation to all international and regional agreements."

The 2013 agreement, reached at a meeting in Riyadh hosted by the then Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, was signed by the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, while an implementation mechanism was signed by the six GCC foreign ministers.

In the document, the parties agreed to refrain from backing any "political currents that pose a threat to any member country of the (Gulf Cooperation) Council," and provided for Brotherhood leaders who are non-GCC citizens to leave the area.