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Manama Dialogue 2012 Second Plenary Session: Q&A
Sh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bahrain
Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Qatar

Manama Dialogue 2012: Second PLeanry Session Q&A

Elizabeth Dickinson, Gulf Correspondent, The National
Hello. Good morning. Thank you so much for your comments. Sheikh Khalifa, you mentioned about the proximity of the GCC and how the regional turmoil has brought it closer together. I wonder if you could tell us a bit about what you are expecting from the meeting later this month of the Gulf Cooperation Council regarding the formation of a closer union or closer cooperation. Thank you.

Nabil Fahmy, Founding Dean, School of Public Affairs, American University in Cairo; Chair, Middle East Project, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
I want to thank the two speakers. They were very straightforward and to the point. I have two quick points. First of all, in the last panel, the congressman mentioned at the very end that the US role in securing the region does not necessarily have to be a military one. I think that would raise a lot of concerns, in the Gulf in particular, if the US were to think of having a different security role than a military one.

The actual question is on Syria. Lakhdar Brahimi recently said that the US and Russia were looking at creative solutions on how to move this forward. Would either of the distinguished panellists like to enlighten us on that? Thank you.

Raghida Dergham, Founder and Executive Chairman, Beirut Institute
This is in addition to Nabil’s point. Why has the GCC failed in convincing Russia and China to change their minds and take a different policy? Have you tried and failed? Have you used all of the tools that you have? In the new conversation that is taking place between the Americans and the Russians, as we hear it, what would you look to see? Is this the language of the grand bargain or is this a limited understanding that you hear of or would like to see? Thank you.

Ellen B Laipson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Henry L Stimson Center; Member of the Council, IISS
I would like to ask Minister Khalifa to tell us more about the process of gradual integration in the GCC. We perceive that in the case of Syria, for example, that Saudi Arabia and Qatar took different approaches, tactically, to the Syrian opposition. I would like to hear more about the extent to which there is consensus within the GCC on the regional problems outside of the GCC and how much consensus there is on the threats to the GCC states themselves.

Yashar Aliyev, Ambassador, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Azerbaijan
I thank distinguished ministers for their interventions. I have a very interesting question to both ministers. The GCC is a very important and influential actor in the regional framework. My country enjoys excellent relationship with Bahrain and the other five members of the GCC. It is a known fact that a number of countries have expressed their desire to join the GCC. Meanwhile, I would like to ask the distinguished minister to elaborate on the further opportunities to develop the GCC as a structure. Is there any idea of extending offers for observership? Thank you. 

Dr Mariam Hasan Alkandari, Kuwait University
I have a question to Al Khalifa. I do agree with Prince Hamad yesterday: we are looking for the future of this region. However, I want to know more about how to promote and reform our educational programme and educational public policies. We need to sustain some stability, and we need to bring about understanding among the young generation. I would love to hear more about the role of the GCC for the future coming of this region, and being part of this as a citizen of the Gulf area. Thank you.

Professor Dr Volker Perthes, Executive Chairman and Director, German Institute for International and Security Affairs; IISS Member
My question is actually to Khalid Al Attiyah. There is a broad idea in the region about how you are financing and helping the Syrian opposition, and the idea is that you are mainly concentrating on one political trend, which is the Muslim Brotherhood trend. At the same time, there is quite some concern that the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to dominate the Syrian coalition, as it tried to dominate the Syrian National Congress. Are you prepared to use your influence on the Muslim Brotherhood to make clear to them that Syria is bigger than just the Muslim Brotherhood, and that they should integrate with other forces? Are you prepared to do what you actually suggested to other states, to channel all your support through the coalition and not through one political trend in it? Thank you.

Kevin Rudd, Former Prime Minister; Member, Australian House of Representatives
Thank you very much, John. Kevin Rudd, from Australia. In post‑Assad Syria, what confidence do the ministers have in terms of the preparedness of the UN as of today vis-à-vis the post‑conflict stabilisation task – peacekeeping forces, humanitarian intervention and all the rest that will be necessary to avoid the usual repetition of failed UN presences in post‑conflict states?

Dr John Chipman
Thank you. I think I will give each four or five minutes to respond. Perhaps I will start with Qatar. You had many questions on the Muslim Brotherhood and others. I see you have taken notes; we look forward to your replies.

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
I will leave everything concerning the GCC to my brother Khalid. He is chairing us for this period. This is a sign of union, is it not?

Dr John Chipman

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
Maybe I can answer our friend Volker from Germany about the Brotherhood. Qatar is accused of so many things, not all of them with the Brotherhood. I do not know; wherever we go to reach out and help, at the end of the day we are accused. However, this is fine for us if we can obey our principle and reach out for people and needs. If we had the intention of empowering the Brotherhood or any other party, we would not go and work hard with our brothers to bring the opposition together. In Qatar we will bring the SNC. If you know the SNC, and the SNC’s structure, it has been almost dominated by the Brotherhood. When we made the coalition, in the coalition now everyone has an equal voice, so no one is dominating the other.

If you are speaking about on the ground, if you think that the food, medicine and clothes are means of defence, then yes, we have supplied this. We limited ourselves. We wanted to help them – not the Brotherhood, I mean all Syrians – but we could not do anything; the only thing we have been able to do until now is supply humanitarian aid. I think, if you saw the people who gathered in Antalya last night, and the day before, and ten days ago, they are from everywhere. I will be very frank with you – I am sorry if I take a long time on this one –

Dr John Chipman
No, no, it is important; please.

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
It is a very important point. I am very much against excluding anyone at this stage, or bracketing them as terrorists, or bracketing them as al‑Qaeda. What we are doing is only creating a sleeping monster, and this is wrong. We should bring them all together, we should treat them all equally, and we should work on them to change their ideology, i.e. put more effort altogether to change their thinking. If we exclude anything from the Syrian elements today, we are only doing worse to Syria. Then we are opening the door again for intervention to chase the monster. 

They are only close to God now because what they are seeing from blood – and I am saying this for all of Syria. Muslims, Christians, Jews – whenever they have a crisis, they come close to God. This is the nature of man. If we see that someone is calling Allahu Akbar, the other soldier from the regime is also calling Allahu Akbar when he faces him. This is not a sign of extremism or terrorism. In my opinion it is very wrong, and we are committing a big mistake, if we exclude anyone now. This I would like to say on this. Thank you.

Sh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
I totally concur with my GCC colleague, Dr Khalid Al Attiyah, on everything he has said on Syria. Coming to one of the questions on whether we have the same assessment of threats or the same policy towards any situation in the region, yes, we do. I will take the example of Syria. Everything that Dr Khalid said is based on a GCC consensus, and we know that. That consensus was also part and parcel of the Arab League consensus, and we all subscribe to that and understand that the stability of Syria – that change in Syria is inevitable and it is very important for the security of the region. It reached a level that became untenable. This is one.

The second point raised in an earlier question was the issue of the GCC Union. We have this summit here in Bahrain on 24‑25 December. Do not expect this summit to declare this Union, because it was clear in the statement of the summit that took place in Riyadh last May, and the consultative summit of the leaders, that such a declaration will come in a special summit in Riyadh in the near future. We have not yet finished our work. As I said in my speech, we do not run to reach our goals. We walk carefully, and we want to make sure that everybody understands what is ahead of us, and everybody agrees. We will work towards that direction, but that will not be announced at the summit in Bahrain later this month.

The third point or question is why we have failed with Russia. Let us not call it a failure. We are talking; we have just had a meeting a couple of weeks ago in Riyadh with our colleague, Mr Sergei Lavrov, and Russia is an important country. It is one of the P5, and it has been an important partner with the Middle East for decades. For us to say that we have reached a point of failure is wrong; we did not. Yes, we do have a long way to go in working together, and it could happen more quickly, but we cannot tell ourselves that we have failed to convince them, because we talk to them all the time.

The fourth point was about the GCC’s structure. The GCC structure consists of six countries, and we are still working towards further integration. We build relationships all over the world. We have some more integrated relationships with countries like Jordan, Morocco and Yemen, but definitely the structure remains as it is.

The last point I want to talk about is the question that came from my Kuwaiti colleague, which is about how to promote reform of education. This is a serious matter. It is one of the most important projects that His Royal Highness the Crown Prince is spearheading here in Bahrain. It is education. When you talk about education, you are talking about the future; you are talking about tomorrow. However, it is not only about educating the young, but also about listening to the young and communicating with the young. The young do not wait for the nine o’clock or eight o’clock news bulletin – at whatever time it happens in our countries – to hear the news. They are much faster than that. They do not wait for a statement coming from the respective authority regarding any matter. They go and find out themselves. This will also have to be changed, and it is changing. We are now seeing, also here in Bahrain, that education is key in schools and classrooms, but not only teaching them but also listening to them. In many cases, those young kids are much smarter than many of us here today. Thank you very much.

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
Maybe a quick point on Russia, if you will allow me, John? I would just like to touch on what my brother Khalid has said. As Sheikh Khalid says, Russia is very important to us, and we have been trying since the beginning of the crisis in Syria to engage with them and try to convince them, because of the good relationships they have built with the Arabs over the last 50 or so years. We would love to see everything going through the United Nations, i.e. the Security Council, but at the end of the day, we have grown enough now to know how things can be done legally through the United Nations, if Russia or other countries still insist on vetoing or blocking the Syrian people from getting their rights. 

I think there is something called a ‘United for Peace Resolution’. I do not know; you can check it. It is Resolution 377. This was used once by the United States, in 1952. I think we will be thinking seriously of doing it through the United Nations General Assembly, to take such a resolution, in order to protect the Syrian people from the blocking resolutions on the Security Council. We hope the Russians revise their position on this. As Sheikh Khalid says, they are very important to us. We have built a lasting relationship with them. We would like, and we intend, to keep the relationship as such, but at the end of the day there are people being killed every day, and they need a solution. Thank you, John.

Dr John Chipman
I will bring in a second round of points. First, François Heisbourg, and after that Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary‑General of NATO.

François Heisbourg, Chairman of the IISS Council
Thank you very much, John. Minister of State Khalid Al Attiyah, I think I heard you say that the Syrian people need the means to implement their own no‑fly zone. Does that mean that manned, portable air defence systems should be provided by foreign states to the insurgents, at the risk, of course, that some of these systems could end up in the wrong hands, in the wrong places, with possibly grievous effects on passenger airliners and assorted airports? Or did you mean something else?

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
Yes, some portable Mistral or whatever – you guys have good stuff here. However, I do not think that these people want to use them to shoot down a civilian aeroplane. This can be supervised properly to form the no–fly zone. At this time, believe you me, what is happening in Syria, and the devastating air bombardment, will not let them think of using it anywhere else but to protect themselves. But yes, we should not supply this unsolicited; we should not supply this unsupervised. It has to be supervised, and it has to be properly delivered to them. At the end of the day, however, we cannot do this unless it is through the United Nations – unless there is an international resolution on this. Thank you.

Dr John Chipman
I just want a quick reply to that, because it is very specific. If there are any military officials in the room who would like to provide a more technical point of view of exactly how one supervises the use of manned portable equipment, then that would be helpful to the general debate. Ms Kellogg, next? Thank you very much.

Amy Kellogg, Fox News
This is Amy Kellogg from Fox, and I wanted to ask Sheikh Khalid: there has been acknowledgement of those BICI reforms that Bahrain has implemented, but equally there has been criticism of the Kingdom for those recommendations that have not yet been implemented. I am wondering whether you could share with us what plans there are to follow those other recommendations, and to assure us that they will be given full attention. Thank you.

Yezid Sayigh, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
We keep hearing from Syrian opposition leaders that the regime is about to end. Farouk Tayfour, Deputy Head of the Syrian National Council, has been predicting it by the end of this year, which is 22 days away. Last night we heard from Mustafa Sabbagh that the end is imminent, from Representative Rogers that the regime is in its last days of desperation, and all this has been brought about by very disparate rebel groups, most of whom are local village militias, and relatively few of whom are actually taking the battle to the enemy. If all this is real, and the rebels control 70% of the territory, etc., etc., why does anyone still need to do anything from the outside? What are we missing?

Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary‑General, NATO
A question to both speakers: Kevin Rudd asked earlier about the potential role and capacity of the UN in the post‑conflict situation in Syria, which I do not think we have heard an answer to. I would be interested in your views on a potential NATO role. NATO of course acted in Libya, in large part because of strong calls from the region for NATO to intervene, and regional support helped to create the conditions for getting the UN Security Council authorisation. In Syria there have been no calls, or certainly no consensus calling, for a NATO intervention or any other outside intervention in the current phase. Would there be support on the part of the GCC and other states in the region for a NATO role in the post‑conflict implementation, perhaps in support of the UN?

Also, if I could ask our speakers their thoughts on the longer–term role for NATO in the Gulf, and possible collaboration with the GCC in areas like maritime security, regional missile defence and capacity‑building. Do you see the possibility, and is there an interest in a greater NATO role in this part of the world? 

Khalid Rashid Al Zayani, Al Zayani Investments
The title of this session is ‘Priorities for the Region’s Security’. We have not heard anything about what is happening in Egypt. At the beginning we were supporting democracy. What is now happening in Egypt is the rule of law being overtaken by the President and al‑ʾiḫwān. Is that not important enough for us to discuss here?

Rashid Saad Al Dosari, Ambassador of Bahrain to Iran
A moral question to Dr Attiyah. Mass destruction literally means mass destruction. The world stood idle to the mass killings and destruction from day one; we now have about 3 million destroyed houses across Syria, not to name the missing people. When it came to the chemical weapons we saw the world as united. While we have waited, the efforts to stop this mass killing have so far failed.

Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman, Munich Security Conference
I would like to come back to the question of chemical weapons that Senator McCain raised. I think there are two questions: one is how do we make sure, if we can, that the current regime abstains from deploying or using these weapons? The second question, and that is the one I would like to ask our two speakers, is: what are they doing, as they speak to the opposition, to make sure that once the Bashar al‑Assad regime falls apart these weapons shall be safeguarded and do not fall, as is often said, into the wrong hands? Are you speaking to the opposition groups about such priorities? Thank you.

Dr John Chipman
Thank you. I think quite a menu has built up. We still have time for another round after this, so not to worry. Perhaps I will ask Sheik Khalid to come in first on the BICI Report, the issues that still have to be implemented further, process that will be undertaken here. Once he has given a comprehensive answer to that question we will turn to the Minister of State of Qatar for the many questions on Syria, the role of NATO and the UN, and controlling weapons proliferation in the country.

Sh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
Yes, I will answer that point and one other which I see as very important. Talking about the BICI Report and its recommendations, as we said and as is well reported, many of the recommendations were fully implemented. Some of them are partially implemented, but in the process. With some of them we are really moving ahead to implement them but are facing some difficulties regarding one main issue. The issue we are facing is capacity. The recommendations in some parts talk about implementation, and in some parts talk about capacity-building to have the ability to do it. When I talk about capacity-building, mainly I am talking about the judicial system. We are working very hard. I know the minister of justice is working with the American Bar Association and many other institutions around the world to really build capacity in order to reach the right level to be able to finish what some of the most important recommendations relate to. This is very important and we will have to do it very carefully. Again I would say we are fully committed to implementing every single one of them fully.

The other issue relating to the BICI, and some of the recommendations also relate to it, is reconciliation. In no way can reconciliation come from one party, and I mean here the government, to be able to do anything in this regard. We heard His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, last night be very clear: it takes all players to come together to the table to talk about it and leave all the politics on the streets. We have done it before. It is nothing new to our society. Reconciliation also has some recommendations referring to it. We are not worried about whether we will be able to succeed; it is just a matter of time. We will definitely do away with them in the coming future.

The other point I want to refer to is the NATO role raised by Mr Vershbow. This is a very important role. As we know, Bahrain and several other GCC countries are members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the ICI. We do share a lot of information; we do a lot of work together. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are working with NATO on ISAF; we are part of ISAF. We do work with NATO and it is nothing new to us. We started a while ago and we will continue. Also, the combined task force in the waters of the Arabian Gulf includes many NATO countries. The prospects of working with NATO, having a strategic plan for the future with NATO is something that will definitely be welcomed to be looked at. Again, this is not something new; we have been working with them for some time. Thank you very much.

Dr John Chipman
Sheikh Khalid, just before I turn back to the numerous questions on Syria, one broad question that flows from the BICI report to which you referred was the question of reconciliation. There has been a lot of debate as to exactly how one can develop the face‑to‑face meetings that His Royal Highness the Crown Prince spoke about yesterday as being vitally important to generate understanding. There have been many informal attempts in this country to generate those face-to-face meetings. There have sometimes been questions as to whether those face‑to‑face meetings might be facilitated by other mediators or outsiders. Are you open to that outside mediation and friendly peacebuilding, as the Crown Prince said yesterday, or do you think that those capacities should be generated entirely from the domestic society in Bahrain in order to address the reconciliation that everyone calls for?

Sh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
His Royal Highness the Crown Prince was very clear last night about reconciliation. In fact His Royal Highness thanked some of our allies and friends in the region and beyond in making a lot of efforts in that regard. This is something that we appreciate and we will always be very thankful. But definitely all those efforts, if they are made, they are to be made to every partner, or every side here in Bahrain, to really do it together as Bahrainis. It does not have to be on big issues; it could start on generic issues, as His Royal Highness said. It could even start on a non-governmental level. It could start on a think tank level. It could start with a gathering around a table and talking about issues like human rights, issues like some of the important needs for the citizens. That can also bring everybody together and break the ice. Once you break that we will be able to do so. Again, I want to say it is nothing new for us here in Bahrain. We have done it through very important junctures in our history. I do not want to go back to the old history; I want to refer to when we wrote our constitution together, when we amended our constitution together as late as last year. I do think we will not be able to do it again because communications between all parties have never ceased throughout the last two years. Thank you very much. 

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
Nothing much in Syria. The only thing is that I know that everyone here values human life. I do not think not protecting the chemical weapon of the Syrian regime is a good cause for us to delay us reaching out and helping the people of Syria and stopping the killing. This can be done in parallel. We can come together. The Friends of Syria are well known and they have good experience of this. We have three members of the P5 with us in Friends of Syria. On the core group we have other countries with high technology in fighting the chemicals, or predicting the chemicals and bracketing them. We cannot stay still and think, ‘What will we do after Assad with the chemicals? What will we do after Assad with the [X board, A board, D board, N board, F board?]?’ People are dying. We should go, reach out and help the people. Then I think when we do this they will appreciate that any formal[?] action will be against their interests. This is the main issue in Syria now. We have been talking for 20 months with all our friends and colleagues saying it is not the time. The more we delay solving this, the more fanatics are building in Syria. This is a fact. People started with their bare hands. People are now experts in using 123mm and 155mm guns, when first they start with a stick. I think the faster we help them the better Syria will be. Thank you. 

Dr John Chipman
Can you just answer the question about weapons proliferation outside of Syria? Many people make the comparison with Libya that unfortunately there was not sufficient control, and then one finds weapons in Mali and Somalia. What is your concern about controlling the prospect of weapons proliferation?

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
Libya and Syria are not mirror images; Libya is totally different. Libya’s surrounding border was already a theatre for such events. There is such a big border between Libya and the other countries, and it was the same when we speak with Syria. The borders around Syria, at least the countries are stable and controlled. I do not think this is the case in Syria. I am not worried about this. If we all work all together, and especially after uniting the military and rebels together in Turkey, and if we monitor them closely, I think this can be controlled. They can be a good asset. They can protect their assets and they can be a good asset to protect the borders. Whoever has a fear on the borders surrounding Syria, if we help those people they will be the main element to protect those borders.

Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, Professor of Political Science, Emirates University; IISS Member
Two Khalids, and hence two questions to each of them. The first goes by seniority to Sheik Khalid. Prince Salman was very specific last night in his speech. He thanked two Gulf countries: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He left out all the others. He did not mention Kuwait, Qatar, or Oman. Does that mean that these countries do not stand by Bahrain in terms of need? I want your frank answer; please do not give me a diplomatic answer.

Second question: Dr Attiyah, Qatar is full of cash and it is spending it left, right and everywhere. Apparently you are so engaged in Syria, but there is Bahrain next door. When are we going to see a $10 billion or $20bn Qatar Marshall Plan for Bahrain? Thank you very much. 

Dr Ebtesam Al Ktebi, Professor, Political Science Department, UAE University; IISS Member
I am going to ask my question in Arabic.

[As translated from Arabic: Your Excellency, the Qatari Minister, the Qatari role is not only perplexing to the Arabs, but also to the world; there are numerous contradictions. This is a country that could not tolerate a poem and sentenced the poet to life in prison. How can Arab peoples believe that this country is supporting their freedoms? What is its credibility? What is this intensive intervention in the internal affairs of these countries? Does this not entail negative consequences to Qatar in the long term? If you intervene in my affairs, there is justification for me to interfere with your affairs.

The third and last point: what does Qatar perceive itself? Is it like others see it as a ‘proxy’ to the Americans in the Arab region, or is competing against the Turkish role in the Arab region? Or is it the Representative of the Gulf Cooperation Countries in the Arab region?]

Dr Abdullah El Kuwaiz, Chairman of the Fund Manager, ICD Food and Agribusiness Fund, Saudi Arabia; IISS Member
After these heated questions I do not think there is room for mine. Sheik Khalid in his eloquent presentation alluded to the possibility of strengthening the economic relations with Asia. I do not know what he means. He talked about the possibility of an economic agreement. Will that include a free-trade agreement with ASEAN, and in the case, is GCC and ASEAN ready? Thank you.

Dr Bijan Khajehpour, Managing and Founding Partner, Atieh International, Iran
My question goes to both distinguished panellists. We talked about the GCC and how we have more than 30 years of GCC work. The question is frank and a little difficult. Has there been any strategic mistake during the last 30 years of GCC? I think there is one, and that is supporting Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran on the fear of Iran, and the result was two wars which had international implications in the region based on supporting Saddam Hussein by GCC. How do you see this strategic miscalculation? Can you frankly evaluate this perception/attitude if we applied this strategic miscalculation to Syria? What I hear during the last two days here is militarisation of Syrian conflict. Now what we hear on this panel is injecting more weapons, and nothing about the future and what will happen in this region if there is a failed state, if there is a place where terrorists would have a location to act regionally.  Just on one concept, that is, the system should be brought down by military intervention - if it is incremental, or gradual, or by an assault by the international community. Is it not a miscalculation that we do not, that we can still work on a political solution in Syria?

Major General Hamdy Abdallah Bekheet, Strategic and Military Expert, Office of the Chief of Staff, Egyptian Armed Forces
Thank you, John. You gave me a chance when you asked about any experience from the military people here. I would point to two or three points. My first point is that speaking about weapons of mass destruction in Syria is a completely dangerous matter. We are approaching a very dangerous area when we speak about that, for a number of reasons. One of them is the geographic and topographic area of Syria. It is completely different from Libya, which is considered a big plain of earth where you can control such weapons.

My second point is that there are many who are interested and waiting for such an area to be exposed in order to satisfy their objectives, especially terrorist elements. Number three, I would propose two main elements by which all the people of the area might solve their problems. One of them is national reconciliation and the national will. If we are looking forward, for those two reasons, we will perhaps find that something can be solved inside the country without trying to solve it in a military way. The main question is: how can we solve the Syrian problem without causing a big regional war, as might be expected from the situation and the policy of the main interested powers towards Syria? Thank you, sir.

Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme, IISS
The question raised by someone else about some of the GCC countries who were not thanked by the Crown Prince last night makes me want to ask about another country that was not thanked. The United States was not mentioned last night. I would like to ask a question of Sheikh Khalid: is that because of any disagreement with the United States over the way in which the United States was trying to engage with Bahraini society – for example, talking with the opposition?

Dr John Chipman
I will ask Sheikh Khalid to speak first on these issues, and then the minister can speak on the continuing Syrian story.

Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
I will put together the question that came from Dr Abdulkhaleq and the last question. What did his Royal Highness the Crown Prince say last night? First of all, he prioritised who to thank, and thanked our brothers in the GCC. He mentioned them all. He did not mention each country by name, but mentioned them all, and gave the two most important examples of those who have made an effort in standing with Bahrain. These were obvious: they were Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates. He did not exclude in any way the rest of the GCC.

We all remember that the whole GCC gathered in Bahrain on 17 or 18 February in this hotel, for a meeting of foreign ministers. That was the declaration to give support to Bahrain, which we have followed up later. That covered, in part, military security and human security in providing the Gulf programme for Bahrain and Oman. No one was excluded, but two examples were given.

That brings us to the United States of America, which is our NATO major ally and our partner in the Gulf, and with whom we have a long historical relationship. Again, His Royal Highness thanked our friends in the West. He did not exclude anyone. He then gave an example of the United Kingdom and Her Majesty’s Government, because they had made a lot of efforts. We gauged it by efforts and mentioned the United Kingdom. Then, of course, we could not not refer to our allies in Asia. We mentioned those three countries with whom we had been doing a lot of work, and who had kept their door open.

We were not excluding anybody based on having worked with different parties here in Bahrain. The United Kingdom has been doing the same thing through their respective ambassadors as the United States. It was a matter of mentioning those who have done more, but no one was excluded here.

This takes me to the next point. ASEAN has been mentioned by Dr El Kuwaiz. We all know that there was a foreign ministers’ meeting that took place here in Bahrain three years ago between ASEAN and the GCC. That was the first one ever. The next one took place in Singapore. In those meetings, we have agreed on three areas: an economic framework agreement, a free trade agreement, and a culture and education agreement. Those are the three most important areas that we are discussing.

When we talk about the economic framework agreement, a lot can fall under that. We all know what our priorities and our needs are. I just mentioned food. Food security is a priority for us. If you go to ASEAN, they talk about energy security. These are some of the issues that will continue to be on the agenda of the ASEAN­GCC dialogue, and we look forward to continuing those meetings at every level in the next few years.

Regarding the point raised by Dr Khajehpour regarding whether supporting Saddam Hussein had been a miscalculation, I want to tell you clearly that that was not a miscalculation on the GCC’s part. It was not support for Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was the president of Iraq then. It was support for Iraq.

As well as this, it was not a reaction to support Saddam Hussein in aggression against Iran. It was a reaction to threats against every single country in the Gulf that were coming day after day, not only in the Friday ceremonies, but also in government statements from every level up to the Ayatollah Khomeini. They were talking about toppling regimes, changing structures and causing revolutions. That was what brought us to go and defend Iraq, and let Iraq stand as it is. Whether it was Saddam Hussein or anyone other than Saddam Hussein is another question, but it was clearly not a miscalculation. I think that is all I have got to say.

Dr Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah
Thank you, John. I will answer the $20 billion question first. First of all, I would like to note that all GCC countries are [red­lined?] to all other GCC countries. Any assistance to any GCC country, or any decision relating to a GCC country, is made on the GCC council among each other. No one can let go of any of our members. This is our policy and our strategy in GCC, regardless of what we do.

I will answer our sister here in Arabic, since she asked her question in Arabic. You may want to put on your headsets.

[As translated from Aabic: First of all, thank you for the question. In Qatar, we have been accused of several things and have played several roles. Now, a dear person asked if we are a proxy for the Americans. Two minutes ago, another person asked if we support the Muslim Brotherhood. Between the Americans and the Brotherhood, I swear, brothers, we are lost. This is one point.

The other point is that you talked about the law, the poet, contradictions, Qatar and the inside and the outside. There is no crime or penalty that is not provided for in the law. This is the case in all countries of the world, not just in Qatar alone. ‘There is no crime or penalty not regulated by a legal text.’ 

Perhaps the brothers who are sympathetic to or our brothers who are fond of Twitter like Sheikh Khalid, for example, judged things on the surface based on the opinions of people. It is absolutely not true. 

We have a law that criminalises incitement to overthrow the ruling regime. And if anyone in Qatar criminalizes opinion or the freedom of expression, he/she should have been better off criminalizing the attorney. I mean the poet’s attorney and he is on Twitter and is attacking the judicial system and us and the government and the state. He is present and has not been arrested. So, if the poet was arrested because of the freedom of expression, I would have agreed with you. However, the penalty is different. 

Please read the particulars of the judgement and review it before passing this judgement, and as far as I know, you are an academic. All you have to do is to search in all our countries; in Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, the US or Britain or any other country. There is a law and this law is known to everyone and everyone is supposed to know the law. Anyone who violates the law is subject to penalty. He turned to a fair court in which all the guarantees are available and the evidence to that is as I mentioned the presence of his attorney on Twitter and in newspapers and Human Rights Watch and the Geneva-based Dignity organization and he was not imprisoned. Therefore, the issue here is not the freedom of expression but rather breaking the law.]

Dr John Chipman
Thank you very much. I think we have been true to the traditions of the Manama Dialogue that I laid out yesterday. These were intellectual provocation and reasoned debate, but also effective discussion of the diplomatic tasks in front of the community gathered here. I want you to thank both of our speakers for animating this debate. All of you have deserved your 30­minute coffee break.

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