Shrouded in secrecy amid concerns over interference by the Qatari government and its supporters, the Qatar, Global Security and Stability Conference has also attracted a line-up of world renowned speakers, including the former US Ambassador to the UN, and an ex-British Cabinet Minister.
Security was tight at the event, held at a hotel in the east of the capital, with sniffer dogs prowling the site before it opened. They will be joined by members of the Qatari opposition – exiled Qataris pressing for reform in the country who have never spoken previously in public.
The conference will focus on five main topics: Political Islam and terrorist groups; Qatar and Iran’s Foreign Policy, a source of regional instability; Democracy, human rights and a quest for global prestige; Al Jazeera – free press or voice of terror; and Qatar’s economic and geopolitical influence.
The event’s organizer Khalid Al-Hail, spokesman for the Qatar National Democratic Party, which earlier told Arab News that he “feared for his life” because of perceived threats over his opposition stance.
The conference comes as the diplomatic crisis between the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) and Qatar enters its fourth month.
The ATQ was formed in June by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, the four nations that initially severed ties with Qatar in June amid allegations that it supported terror.
Attending this week’s event are a number of senior politicians including Britain’s Lord Paddy Ashdown, former US Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson, former British Prime Minister Iain Duncan Smith, and other prominent commentators.
Al-Hail said ahead of the event: “The support we have received from some of the most respected and high-profile commentators on the Middle East, World Affairs and the media demonstrates the level of concern there is inside and outside Qatar about the current direction of the leadership of the country.”