Some of the current efforts include Lebanon’s presidency, the tensions between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Afghanistan.
Regional power broker Qatar has assumed new diplomatic roles in the Middle East and globally, expanding its record of diplomatic wins in critical issues, a top Qatari official revealed on Sunday.
Speaking at the Middle East Global Summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Dr. Majed Al-Ansari detailed the Gulf state’s past and current diplomatic endeavours in a number of key issues.
“We’re all over the place,” Dr. Al-Ansari told the panel, in response to a question over Qatar’s latest efforts.
The Qatari official highlighted Qatar’s past diplomatic wins, including the 2008 mediation in Lebanon, the Doha Peace Agreement in Darfur, Djibouti and Eritrea, and last year’s historic Chad Peace Agreement between the government and opposition.
“We have a renewed interest in being an international mediator. We pride ourselves in being a trusted international partner. We’ve worked on countless issues in the past,” Dr. Al-Ansari explained at the panel.
The foreign ministry official also listed a number of current diplomatic efforts which include solving Lebanon’s presidential crisis, tensions between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and mediating between Afghanistan and the international community.
Dr. Al-Ansari pointed to Qatar’s latest role in easing tensions between Rwanda and DRC amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
“What we are doing right now, one of the main issues we are working on right now, is the DRC and Rwanda, you know there has been a lot of animosity there on the border areas and we are working with both sides in coordination with the Americans to make sure we can reach some kind of an agreement over there,” Dr. Al-Ansari explained.
In January, Qatar attempted to host peace talks between the conflicting sides in an attempt to bring together representatives from Angola, Kenya and the African Union.
However, reports at the time claimed that the meeting was cancelled due to a no show by DRC’s leader Felix Tshisekedi.
Since last year, the eastern side of the DRC has faced increased violence, triggered by clashes between troops and rebels from the M23. The United States and DRC have long accused the M23 of being backed by Kigali, though it has denied those claims.
Despite the delays in talks, Qatar has maintained communication between officials in hopes of guiding Rwanda and DRC back onto the Luanda Agreement, which was signed last year following mediation by Angolan President Joao Lourenco.
Escalations between Rwanda and DRC have been on the rise amid an absence of a political resolution.
With officials in Beirut repeatedly failing to elect a new leader after former President Michel Aoun left office in October last year, Lebanon has been among the most key regional issues of concern for Qatar.
“We are working with Lebanon now to fill the void in the presidential seat. We had the five-state committee in Doha, they held the meeting over there. And we are working with them now, our minister of state who’s responsible for mediation is taking points on this,” Dr. Al-Ansari said.
Qatar is a key member of the quintet group – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the US, and France – which has engaged in talks since February under an initiative led by French Presidential Envoy for Lebanon Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The group first met in Paris before convening for the second time in Doha in July.
The issue of Lebanon’s presidency dominated the agenda at the Doha meeting, in which the group took on “concrete options with respect to implementing measures against those who are blocking progress” in the election of a president.
The crises-stricken country has failed to elect a president at least 12 times as it faces deep division between Lebanon’s political parties, with each side pushing for its own preferred candidate.
More recently, the Gulf state has appeared to play a much larger role in a bid to resolve Lebanon’s prolonged presidential vacuum, with Lebanon’s Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri revealing the presence of a Qatari initiative.
Berri’s remarks on Friday came after multiple reports that suggested plans for Qatar to replace the French political initiative in Lebanon.
Qatar’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al Khulaifi is also expected to return for talks in Lebanon in October, Al Jadeed TV reported last week.
The Gulf state previously assumed a major diplomatic role in 2008, when it held talks that resulted in an agreement between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah following an 18-month political crisis.
The agreement had stipulated that the parties would decide on an electoral law, with General Michel Suleiman being named as the country’s president at the time.
Mediating between Afghanistan and ‘the world’
While Qatar’s diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan are not recent, Dr. Al-Ansari said the Gulf state is currently working on bridging the gap between the crisis-hit country and the rest of the international community.
“We are working in Afghanistan, of course, and Afghanistan is a very important topic for Qatar, we are highly invested in that issue. We are working in mediating between Afghanistan and the rest of the world, basically,” the Qatari diplomat said.
Over the past decade, Qatar has been a key facilitator of dialogue between all parties in Afghanistan, and efforts geared up after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital of Kabul on 15 August 2021.
Doha has since maintained its contact with the Taliban and called on the international community to avoid isolating the country over its new de facto administration.
Qatar’s position as a diplomatic bridge was highlighted last month when it hosted rare direct talks between the Taliban and US officials.
The meeting reportedly ended on a positive note, with the US expressing its openness for technical dialogue with the Taliban regarding the stabilisation of the country’s economic issues, though it ruled out officially recognising the interim government.
In June, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met with the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada in Kandahar – the birthplace of the controversial group.
The meeting with Akhunzada was deemed to be a crucial move given his position as the decision maker in Afghanistan, especially with regards to the latest repressive Taliban policies that have targeted women and girls.
During a recent CNN interview, Sheikh Mohammed, who is also Qatar’s prime minister, disclosed details of the secret meeting in Kandahar for the first time.
“We’ve been very clear, if you want to be part of the international community, you need to cooperate with us. You need to work with us, together, in order to have your country as a Muslim modern country as Qatar,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Despite promising moderate rule following their takeover, the Taliban cracked down on women with a series of controversial restrictions that have been seen as an extension of their former rule in 1990.
Sheikh Mohammed told CNN that Muslim scholars also have the “moral role” to engage with Akhunzada.