Saudi Arabia is upping the ante in an effort to put pressure on other Muslim nations to aid in their efforts to isolate and cut ties to Qatar. The Saudis are using the carrot and the stick approach, having promised financial packages for cooperation and reduced financial aid and quotas for the haj, the religious pilgrimage to Mecca for those who don’t support them.
Thus far, the Saudis have persuaded six nations to take action, not all, however, have severed diplomatic ties, but have taken other less drastic steps. Somalia has rejected an $80 million dollar aid package in return for severing ties with Qatar and has stated that they will look to improve relations with the embattled state.
The Saudi effort in Africa suggests that the kingdom is seeking to tighten the screws on Qatar more than a week into a Saudi and UAE-led diplomatic and economic boycott that has failed to persuade the tiny Gulf state to bow to demands that it halt its support for Islamists and militants and curb, if not shutter, Qatar-funded media outlets, including Al Jazeera.
Saudi efforts, however, despite the actions of the six countries ― Senegal, Chad, Niger, Comoros, Mauritius, and Djibouti – are proving to be only partially successful. Of the six states, only Mauritius severed its diplomatic ties with Qatar. Senegal, Chad, Niger and the Comoros restricted themselves to recalling their ambassadors from Doha while Djibouti, like Jordan, simply reduced the level of its diplomatic relations.
The six countries joined six other economically dependent nations, including Bahrain, Egypt, the Maldives, Mauritania, and the Saudi-UAE backed internationally recognized government of Libya that controls only part of the country, who had already followed the Saudi-UAE lead in breaking off diplomatic relations with Qatar.
Somalia, a strategically located, war-torn nation in the Horn of Africa, has emerged amid the mixed response to the Saudi and UAE effort as something of a mystery. Somalia has maintained neutrality despite the fact that Dubai-owned P&O Ports signed in April a $336 million, 30-year agreement to develop and manage a multi-purpose port in Bosaso in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. The self-declared republic of Somaliland agreed weeks later to allow the UAE to establish a military base in the port of Berbera and signed a $442 million deal with P&O to turn the port into a world-class training hub.
Somali media moreover reported that President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed had rejected a Saudi offer of $80 million in return for his government breaking off diplomatic relations with Qatar. Somali planning, investment and economic development minister Jamal Mohamed Hassan announced nonetheless this week that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase Somalia’s haj quota by 25 percent. Somalia’s strategic importance to the Gulf in commercial as well as military terms would seem to be the only logical explanation for it being rewarded despite refusing to join the Saudi-UAE campaign.
Turkey has renounced the isolation of Qatar and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged not only his support but 3000 troops if necessary. Erdogan said the move to isolate Qatar was “inhumane and against Islamic values”, and said the methods used against the Gulf state were unacceptable and analogous to a “death penalty.”
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