*HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani speaks on the Afghan situation and various other issues concerning the region at the Global Security Forum
HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani stressed on the importance of engaging and participating with the party that rules Afghanistan regardless of who it is, noting that not communicating with Afghanistan could be a mistake. He was participating in a session titled 'Strategic Co-operation in the Gulf and Beyond' that is taking place in Day 2 of the 4th Global Security Forum, taking place under the theme of 'Cooperation or Competition Changing Dynamics of Global Security'.
HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani attends a talks session on the second day of the Global Security Forum being held in Doha.
HE Sheikh Mohamed said that the international community does not want to punish the Afghan people on things that has nothing to do with them, noting that the goal should rather be finding ways to deal with conditions in Afghanistan in order to have stability in the country by having the US and other countries engage with the Taliban. He pointed out that it is not possible to ignore the Afghan situation and wait for the steps that the Taliban will take to act on them, and stressed that the international community must take responsibility for directing these steps by setting a clear roadmap on dealing with the situation in Afghanistan.
On the recognition of the Taliban government, HE Sheikh Mohamed, pointed out that this issue is the focus of everyone, explaining that Qatar recognises the state and not the government. He stressed that as long as there is an Afghan country and people, then there should be an engagement with it regardless of who leads the government. He voiced his belief that everyone agrees with that vision.
The FM referred to the challenges facing Afghanistan at the present time, in particular with regard to the economic situation, and said that the financial system and public services in the country have all been down, which means that employees did not receive their salaries and
added that the government's financial assets have also been frozen with no clear path towards the future. He said that when discussing important issues such as minority, women's rights, and the right to education, it is impossible to judge the outcomes of these issues through the actions of the Taliban without allowing the government to rehabilitate these aspects.
In the same context, HE Sheikh Mohamed noted that given the current economic situation in Afghanistan and with the government's inability to access its financial assets, an urgent question arises regarding the extent of the government's ability to play its role and pay the salaries of staff, including teachers and doctors, as well as issues related to combating terrorism, indicating that the situation in Afghanistan during the past 40 years led to the development of extremist groups on its land. He wondered how best to deal with this issue, especially that the Taliban will pose no threat to any country in the world. He said that the international community must think about how to deal with the issue together in order to protect all countries from threat, especially Afghanistan's neighbouring countries with the flow of immigrants and other important issues.
HE Sheikh Mohamed stressed that these issues cannot be addressed without dealing with the de facto government in Afghanistan in order to promote the national interest and include all components of the Afghan people, which will not be achieved by leaving Afghanistan to face its issues alone, but rather the international community must urge them to take positive steps. In a question about the extent of the development and change of the Taliban movement itself over the past years, he stressed that there is no static or closed movement, highlighting that development and change are the fate of any movement, whether that change is towards more extremism or towards tolerance.
HE Sheikh Mohamed said that there were parts of the Taliban fighting on the ground, and others that were negotiating in Doha and saw the world and dealt with different governments, and as a result their mentalities changed. He noted that this change in the Taliban which came about through talks and seeing the world is not enough, and added that there is a need to take real and tangible steps on the ground, and that the international community must play its role in guiding them.
Regarding the divergence of views between Qatar and the United States, which believes that what is happening on the ground should be followed up to determine aspects of co-operation with the Taliban, HE Sheikh Mohamed affirmed during a session held within the activities of the Global Security Forum that the two countries share the same goals and objectives for a stable and inclusive Afghanistan and for the people to enjoy their rights by building on the gains made during the past two decades, and not to scatter those them.
He stated that the only difference, which I don't see a big difference, is how we can achieve and accomplish our common goals. The United States wants to see progress in terms of freedom of movement and this is something we agree with and we have seen positive steps in this regard, as well as with regard to women's rights, there are small steps, but they are not enough and did not reach the desired goal.
We believe that it is important to provide guidance and support and to reward them for every positive step they take or intend to take and not to punish them for the negative steps they take.
This provides an incentive for them to move forward and helps them to be more effectiveness and efficiency in their judgment.
Regarding whether Qatar considers itself a friend of the Taliban, HE Sheikh Mohamed affirmed that the matter is not viewed from the perspective of friend and enemy, explaining that the entire world is engaged with the Taliban and is in contact with them according to the perspective of each country. He said that we in Qatar, as a neutral mediator, seek a stable, inclusive and inclusive Afghanistan in which people live in security and peace.
On this basis, we communicate and deal with the Taliban according to our perspective and not according to the perspective of other countries, which may face threats such as immigration and terrorist threats. We do not classify the Taliban as friends or enemies, and we have maintained our neutrality during the negotiations and have maintained good relations with all Afghan parties, not only with the Taliban, and our goal is to unite Afghanistan because we believe that is the only way forward to the future.
Filling the void
On the dangers related to the emergence of China in the Afghan arena and filling the void with the reluctance of the United States and Western countries to engage with the Taliban, HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed that Afghanistan should not be viewed as an arena for competition and that everyone is rushing to take a place in the Afghan arena, affirming the need to adopt a co-operative approach with unifying attitudes towards dealing with the Afghan situation.
He added that one of the challenges we are facing at the present time is that there is no clear and specific platform around which the world can gather with the participation of all actors involved in the Afghan issue to agree on a unified roadmap through the involvement of all parties and the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and meeting under one umbrella. In the same context, he pointed out to the sanctions imposed on Afghanistan, stressing that they are "alarming," and explaining that lifting these sanctions will only take place through a Security Council resolution, which requires the agreement of the five permanent members of the Security Council on this, and no single country can do so.
Thus, the matter that requires working in one spirit, stressing that this matter can be achieved, given that the different points of view do not carry a great deal of disagreement, but rather they need approaches to put them in one crucible. He stressed that the State of Qatar will continue to play the role of a neutral mediator to bring views closer through the good relations that it brings with all Afghan components, stressing the importance of all countries to achieve stability in Afghanistan, in particular the Afghan neighbours.
On the Taliban's exclusion of the United States co-operation with them in dealing with terrorist threats and extremist groups and factions such as ISIS in Khorasan in light of the problematic recognition of their government, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs explained that the agreement between the two parties was not the product of a few days, but rather it came as outcomes for many years of action, as an agreement was reached between the United States and the Taliban, and that the Taliban acknowledged and pledged to confront and fight any extremist group, pointing out that the Islamic State (IS) in Khorasan represents a threat not only to Afghanistan and the coalition forces, but also to neighbouring countries and the region. He said that we encourage the Taliban to continue these efforts and confront and eliminate extremist organisations in order to achieve the stability of Afghanistan and we do not see what prevents the Taliban government from co-operating with countries of the world to combat extremist groups.
Regarding the Qatari-American relations and the changes occurred during the administration of former US President Donald Trump, the FM affirmed that the relations between the two countries extend over decades, and it is a strong and rooted relationship that is witnessing development at all levels. It is a strategic and important relationship for the security and stability of the region and serves the interests of the two countries on the security and economic levels, noting that Qatar has positive relations with all US administrations and institutions, including the former US administration, pointing out in this context that there was some misunderstanding, but the two countries continued to develop relations, affirming that Qatar stands by its allies when they need support.
In this context, HE Sheikh Mohamed affirmed that every country works according to its interests, indicating that Qatar also works according to its interests, and when relations intersect, co-operation continues, stating that differences in viewpoints will not represent an obstacle to developing relations that are built on solid foundations. With regard to the crisis that afflicted the GCC countries, and the position of the United States of America at the time, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the misunderstanding that occurred in 2017 has its own reasons, hoping that they will not return.
He indicated that ties with the United States are strong at the level of state institutions, which avoided misunderstanding and confirmed Qatar's move forward on this path. He stressed that conditions in the Gulf are better following the Al-Ula declaration issued by GCC leaders in January this year, highlighting that the three-and-a-half-year crisis was not good. He also said that having things return to normal needs time and could not be accomplished overnight.
In this context, he affirmed the desire of the leaders of the GCC states to reform relations between the GCC states and rebuild strong foundations based on the common interest, given the need to achieve stability at the level of the GCC states, to be a strong and effective entity in the region, explaining that the three and a half years that passed during the crisis led to the division of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which reduced its ability to work efficiently and missed many opportunities.
The FM added that GCC states must work on developing joint positions by exchanging views and rebuilding economic ties. He stressed on the importance of these moves for the future, and also stressed the need for having protective diplomacy foundation to help the GCC avoid similar crises in the future. He added that the crisis cost a lot, but that in the end everyone won by returning to dialogue and signing Al-Ula declaration.
Ties with Iran
Regarding Iran's position during the crisis and Qatari-Iranian relations, the FM said that relations between the two countries have not changed for a long time, pointing out that Iran is part of the region and that communication with it is important for the GCC countries.
He referred to the invitation of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani for dialogue between the GCC countries and Iran, pointing to the initiative of the late Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to communicate with Iran, which was not done during the former US administration's rule.
He added that it was encouraging to see some positive momentum in talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, saying Qatar encourages that and looks forward towards regional stability, given Iran is a neighbouring country and resolving differences with it through negotiation and not just confrontation is necessary. He said that no one could change geography, and so everyone must work on promoting co-operation and joint interest to avoid differences.
On the return to the Iranian nuclear agreement, and the Qatari position on this issue, the FM said that the 5+1 countries and Iran are the parties concerned with this issue, noting that Qatar and the countries of the region have an interest in seeing a return to the agreement in order to spare the region any trouble. He stressed that Qatar is willing to help, noting that there are talks with Iran and that Qatar is encouraging it to return to the agreement.
He also said that Qatar is encouraging the US to do so as well, and has done so with the previous administration as well. He highlighted that Iran is a neighbouring country to Qatar and they share water and gas resources, and so its in the interest of Qatar to see Iran prosper.
He also praised the positive remarks made by the Iranian government regarding the return to the agreement.
On the Palestinian situation and Qatar's position from the Abraham Accords, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs clarified that the Abraham Accords were not compatible with the foreign policy of Qatar. He said that Qatar's view on the solution is to find a peaceful resolution for the Palestinian, highlighting that the core of the issue is the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. He said that Qatar will not develop its ties with Israel without a fair resolution to this issue.
He pointed out that Qatar deals with Israel in the manner that best serves the Palestinian people and meets their needs in Gaza and the West Bank, and works to facilitate difficulties. He noted that when an escalation occurs, Qatar cooperates with regional partners to provide assistance, and in this context, he stressed Qatar's supportive stance calling for peace.
On what happened in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and the impact of social media and the media on the course of things, he said that the media provided a platform to know what is happening there, and Israel targeted the media for its great influence, and some buildings belonging to the media were attacked, and the world witnessed that.