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What a Twist! Why Washington Welcomes Moscow’s Role in Resolving Qatar Crisis

© REUTERS / Naseem Zeitoon/File PhotoPeople sit on the corniche in Doha, Qatar, June 15, 2017.
People sit on the corniche in Doha, Qatar, June 15, 2017. - Sputnik International
The US State Department has openly supported Russia's efforts in settling the diplomatic conflict between Qatar and the four Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. Numerous attempts by the United States to reconcile its Middle Eastern allies have not yielded results. What could be behind such a twist?

The United States has a positive attitude towards Russia's participation in the settlement of the political conflict around Qatar. This was stated at a briefing in the State Department by the spokesperson of the US foreign policy department, Heather Nauert.

"If Russia can play a role in helping to bring the sides to the table, I think we would welcome that. We might be skeptical of whether they’d be able to do that or not, but we would certainly welcome that if anyone were to help bring those sides together," she said at a regular press briefing.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Kurdish Rudaw television channel on Monday that Russia was ready to assist in the settlement of the crisis around Qatar if the mediators deem it necessary.

Failure of diplomatic efforts

According to Yuri Zinin, a leading researcher at the Center for the Partnership of Civilizations of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the US appeal to Russia as a country that can help resolve the conflict testifies to the failure of the diplomatic efforts of the United States.

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"The fact that such a great power as the US was not in a position to solve this issue at this time, apparently, pushed the US to mention Russia," the expert said in an interview with RT.

In early July, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Doha and Riyadh to resolve the conflict between the two most important US allies in the region. Representatives of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the past two months alternately visited Washington, negotiating with their US counterparts. 

Qatar even managed to secure an agreement on the delivery of US F-15 fighters for $12 billion, hoping that this would help resolve the crisis

However, the diplomatic crisis still prevails and the parties are in need of assistance to resolve it.

High Stakes

According to Irina Zvyagelskaya, chief researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the US appeal to Russia for help is explained by the fact that the crisis has become very dangerous.

"Any crisis has its own logic, and the parties begin to raise the stakes," Zvyagelskaya said. 

She added that when that happens, a point is reached when it becomes necessary to take some serious political action.

According to the expert, a stable situation in the Middle East region is very important to the US and therefore the States welcomes efforts to resolve the contradictions between the involved countries  even if that leads to involving other world powers, such as Russia.

Neutral position 

“In case of the failure of the Russian side, the US can also win by demonstrating the inconsistency of our claims as the role of political mediator,” Zinin said.

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From the very beginning of the crisis, Russia took a neutral position. Unlike Trump, the head of the Russian state, Vladimir Putin, did not accuse either side of supporting terrorism. 

Also unlike the talks with Trump, the leaders of the conflicting states have made calls to Putin in recent months, expressing an interest in Russia being a mediator. 

Moreover, Mohammed bin Salman, recently crowned prince of Saudi Arabia, who is considered to be the real ruler of the state, made his first visit outside of his region to Russia and it happened just five days before the break of diplomatic relations with Qatar.

Qatar is also looking for rapprochement with Russia, as has been stated by the representatives of this country on multiple occasions. 

"Russia took a neutral position from the very beginning, did not support either side. We have some influence in Qatar, and I think this applies to other countries of the Cooperation Council [i.e., the Council of Cooperation of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf]. We are interested in developing relations with Saudi Arabia, and, apparently, Saudi Arabia shows exactly the same interest; from all these points of view, Russia is a desirable negotiator,” Zvyagelskaya said.

She further said that there is one more desirable factor for Russia that the US doesn’t have and that is good relations with Iran.

“Everyone understands that the whole story is basically based on the Iranian factor and it seems to me that the fact that we have good relations with Iran was also taken into consideration,” the analyst said.

Earned Authority

The key to the fact that the countries of the region will positively perceive the strengthening of Russia's role as an intermediary in resolving the Qatar crisis is the result of Moscow's positions in the Middle East.

“In Syria, Russia took a very principled position and showed that it can realize the set tasks. Russia is almost universally recognized as a very influential power and much in the Arab world depends on Russia’s position,” Zvyagelskaya said.

Furthermore, Russia not only supports the government of Bashar al-Assad in the fight against terrorism, it is also making peace efforts to disengage forces and is supporting the negotiation format to tackle humanitarian issues. 

All that, as the experts noted, is positively perceived in the Middle East.

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