Between the start of the war and 24 September, the total civilian casualties in Ukraine reached 27,449.
Seasoned mediator Qatar has expressed its openness to facilitate dialogue between rivals Russia and Ukraine “if asked” by its international partners, a top diplomat from the Gulf state told Newsweek on Tuesday.
The remarks were made during an interview with Qatar’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al Khulaifi, who tapped into the country’s record of successful global mediations.
“If asked to mediate in the Ukraine conflict, we would of course be ready to work towards facilitating dialogue and achieving peace in Europe,” Al Khulaifi told the American magazine, noting such mediation is “desperately needed.”
It has been more than a year since Russia launched a full scale military invasion in Ukraine following a period of simmering tensions between the rivals. Since it first erupted on 24 February 2022, the war has dragged on with no permanent ceasefire in sight as tensions continue to soar.
Qatar has long called for the need to diplomatically resolve the conflict through dialogue. It has also repeatedly urged Russia to respect Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”. In March last year, Qatar was among 141 countries who voted on a United Nations resolution demanding Russia’s “immediate and complete” withdrawal from Ukraine.
During his interview with Newsweek, Al Khulaifi further reiterated Doha’s stance regarding the crisis and said the Gulf state “supports any and all constructive dialogue and negotiations that could lead to an end of the conflict.”
“As has been our position from the beginning, we continue to call for an immediate cessation of military action in Ukraine,” Al Khualifi said.
The Qatari official added that “humanitarian corridors must remain open to allow aid into the country” and stressed the need to respect “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Qatar’s unwavering stance
In June, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani travelled to Moscow where he met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the first such meeting since last year.
A statement by Qatar’s foreign ministry at the time said Sheikh Mohammed “stressed the importance of respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.”
Sheikh Mohammed then visited Ukraine in July, where the Gulf state pledged $100 million in humanitarian assistance to the war-laden country.
The vital humanitarian assistance package intended to support the European country’s ongoing recovery, enhancing its infrastructure and social services.
“This money will be channelled for reconstruction in the health and education sectors, humanitarian de-mining and other important social and humanitarian projects,” Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at the time.
Qatari and Ukrainian officials had also discussed Ukraine’s peace formula, which consisted of a comprehensive 10-point peace plan aimed at putting an end to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
However, neither of the meetings in both Moscow and Kyiv pointed to direct Qatari mediation efforts.
The tiny yet diplomatically powerful Gulf nation has a record of successful mediations—most recently landing a historic prisoner exchange deal between adversaries, United States and Iran.
Qatar’s years-long shuttle diplomacy resulted in a major deal that led to the exchange of prisoners between the US and Iran last month, in addition to the release of approximately $6 billion of Tehran’s frozen assets.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian crisis was among the main topics highlighted in the speech of Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at the UN General Assembly last month.
“In the absence of a prospect for a permanent political solution, and due to the ability to keep the war raging indefinitely by major international blocs engaging directly or indirectly in the war, a long-term truce has become the most looked for aspiration by people in Europe and all over the world,” Sheikh Tamim said.
The Qatari leader added: “Based on the harm that befallen the peoples of the two countries and the peoples of the world, and because this status quo cannot be accepted, we reiterate our call on all parties to comply with the United Nations Charter and the international law, respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and resort to a radical peaceful solution that is based on these principles.”
Between the start of the war and 24 September, the total civilian casualties in Ukraine reached 27,449, per figures by the UN. The war has also caused a grain crisis while exacerbating Europe’s energy crisis, with countries in the region seeking alternatives to Russian gas.