Qatar’s hope of becoming a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was dashed today, undermining Doha’s long term strategic ambition.
Responding to yesterday’s overture by Qatar’s Defence Minister, Khalid Bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah, who expressed his nation’s desire to join one of the longest military alliances, NATO said that membership was reserved to the United States and Europe.
According to Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, only European countries can become members of NATO,” an official of the 29-country alliance told AFP. “Qatar is a valuable and longstanding partner of NATO,” the official added.
Speaking yesterday on the anniversary of a year-long bitter Gulf diplomatic dispute, Al-Attiyah told the official magazine of the Qatari defence ministry, Altalaya: “Qatar today has become one of the most important countries in the region in terms of the quality of armament.”
“Regarding the membership, we are a main ally from outside NATO. The ambition is full membership if our partnership with NATO develops and our vision is clear.”
He added that there was a growing relationship between Qatar and the alliance, and Doha could host “NATO’s units or one of its specialised centres”.
Qatar’s ambition of one day becoming a full member of NATO has seen Doha securing a number of agreements. Earlier this year, Doha signed a security pact at the Alliance’s Headquarters in Brussels. The security agreement provides the framework for the protection of exchange of classified information.
Whether this is a minor setback for Doha which has become isolated by its neighbours is unclear. Despite the impact of the blockade led by Saudi and the UAE, many in Qatar view the past year’s events as a victory.
Qatari papers were jubilant on Tuesday, with headlines such as “Triumphant Qatar stays united” and “Qatar shines as smear campaign against it fails”. Taxi companies are reported to have offered customers free rides and some in Qatar have even called for 5 June to be made a national holiday.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) released a report claiming more than 4,000 human rights abuses had been committed against Qataris by the Saudi-led alliance in the past year. Qataris have been exposed to arbitrary arrest and routinely denied freedom of movement, according to the report by the government-appointed body detailing alleged abuses including one case of forced disappearance.