A series of hand-written secret agreements between Gulf countries from 2013 and 2014 are said to “confirm beyond any doubt Qatar’s failure to meet its commitments and its full violation of its pledges”.
The agreements, which were exclusively obtained by CNN from a source it said was from the region with access to the documents, provide further details on the main reasons cited by the four countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain – for imposing a blockade on Doha since the beginning of June.
Details of the document, which CNN claims were kept secret even though their existence was known, reveal sensitive issues privately agreed by the heads of state. The blockading countries have accused Qatar of breaking those agreements. They have also said that a commitment to abide by prior obligations was one of the conditions which Qatar needed to fulfil before the blockade would be lifted.
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In a statement to CNN, however, Qatar accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of breaking the spirit of the agreement and indulging in an “unprovoked attack on Qatar’s sovereignty”.
The first hand-written agreement, referred to as the “Riyadh agreement” was signed in November 2013 by the King of Saudi Arabia, the Emir of Qatar and the Emir of Kuwait. In it, the countries agreed not to interference in each other’s internal affairs; a commitment which is believed to include barring financial or political support to anti-government activist groups.
The Muslim Brotherhood was specifically mentioned in the agreement. GCC countries are said to have agreed not to provide aid and assistance to the Islamist party, which is seen as a political threat to the authoritarian regimes in the region. In justifying their blockade, Saudi Arabia and its allies pointed to Qatar’s alleged support for the Brotherhood as well as Hezbollah and other groups.
In the first agreement, the countries also vowed not to support “antagonistic media”, an apparent reference to Al Jazeera – the satellite news station based in Qatar and funded by its government which other Gulf States accuse of trumpeting opposition groups in the region including in Egypt and Bahrain.
A separate document dated 16 November 2014 singed by the King of Bahrain, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Prime Minister of the UAE, headlined “top secret” mentions the commitment to support Egypt’s stability. It specifically mentioned Al Jazeera and preventing the Qatari funded media agency, according to CNN, “from being used as a platform for groups or figures challenging the Egyptian government”.
While additional documents to the 2013 agreement were signed by the countries’ foreign ministers which discussed the implementation of the agreement, Qatar has maintained that the current demands “bear no relation” to the prior documents and accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of breaking “the spirit of the agreement”.
“A full reading of that text will show that the intent of the 2013/14 agreements was to ensure that sovereign GCC nations be able cooperate within a clear framework,” Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of Qatar’s government communication office, told CNN.
“Their demands – that Qatar close down Al Jazeera, force the breakup of families, and pay ‘compensation’ – are demands that bear no relation to the Riyadh agreements,” he added. “Further, at no point did Saudi Arabia or the UAE use the mechanisms in the Riyadh agreement to communicate their concerns to Qatar.”
Al Thani described the blockade as representing “an unwarranted and unprecedented attack on Qatar’s sovereignty and it is for that reason that they have been rejected by Qatar and condemned by the international community.”
The official pointed to the hacking, fabricated statements, and a coordinated media campaign against Qatar. He believes that it was evidence of Saudi Arabia and the UAE attempting to conceal facts from the general public, including their own citizens. This is reflected in the harsh stance they have taken against Al Jazeera and other media outlets within their borders, stated Al Thani.
The blockading countries, however, have said that their demands are “in line with the spirit” of agreements. In a statement issued jointly after the publication of the story by CNN. They added that the documents “confirm beyond any doubt Qatar’s failure to meet its commitments and its full violation of its pledges.”