Saudi Arabia’s threat a violation of Gulf cooperation charter and international law: Qatar

Russia’s S-400 air defense missile system. © Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Responding to Saudi Arabia’s military threats, Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, warned the move is in violation of the Gulf cooperation charter as well as international law.

Sheikh Mohammed made the comments during an interview with Al Jazeera.

Saudi Arabia has threatened Qatar with military action if it was to acquire Russia’s S-400 air defense missile system, reported French news daily, Le Monde, this week.

“The purchase of any military equipment is a sovereign decision that no country has anything to do with,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “Qatar is going to treat this the same way we have treated the illegal blockade, we are going to lobby all the international forums to make sure that this behavior is not repeated,”

He went on to add, “We’re going to take all the necessary actions to defend our country”.

According to the charter of the Gulf Cooperation Council, member states cannot attack each other, said Sheikh Mohammed.

Background context

On June 5, 2017, an alliance consisting of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, led by Saudi Arabia, severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Iran and terrorism. As a result Qatar found itself cornered: its residents were expelled from the quartet’s countries while its state-owned airline was barred from using their airspace.

Despite initial hopes that the rift between former allies, could be resolved quickly, the situation has not undergone significant change.

Qatar has adopted the stance that the dispute treads heavily on its sovereignty and is punishment for its pursuit of an independent foreign policy.

Diplomatic efforts led by the United States and Kuwait have so far not borne fruit.

Despite the heightened tensions, Qatar, the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has withstood the economic and political challenge thrown by the Saudi-led alliance.

The situation has escalated following the United States’ exit from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and Tehran announcing its plans to boost its capacity to enrich uranium.

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned of risks that the standoff could lead to a “conflict”.

European nations have scrambled to save the beleaguered nuclear deal.

During a press conference, Macron called on “everyone to stabilize the situation and not give into this escalation which would lead to only one thing: conflict.”

The Iranian decision to expand its nuclear infrastructure is not grounds for quitting the landmark 2015 deal, said Macron.

Despite the U.S. withdrawal from the deal, fellow signatories, including France, Germany, the EU, Britain, Russia and China, have stood firm by it.

Macron pointed out, the US pullout “simply shows that when you decide to unilaterally end an accord it does not encourage the other party to respect it.”

The EU’s relation with Israel are showing signs of strain over the Israeli army’s killing of 123 Palestinian protesters in Gaza since March 2018. Last Month, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe canceled a planned trip to Israel.