NATO denies claims that Qatar has become an ally

Updated 18 January 2018

NATO denies claims that Qatar has become an ally

JEDDAH/LONDON: NATO has denied claims made by some Qatari media outlets which sought to exaggerate a recent agreement which was signed with the tiny Gulf state, some of which have imagined that such an agreement makes Doha a fully-fledged ally.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Qatar had signed a “security agreement” with NATO at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

It was in fact a regular agreement that NATO signs with a number of countries. This was clear from the press release posted on the alliance’s website, which said: “These agreements are signed by NATO partner countries that wish to engage in cooperation with NATO. All four ICI (Istanbul Cooperation Initiative) partner countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE — have now signed individual security agreements with NATO.”

Some of the Qatari media outlets projected this agreement as if Qatar had become a NATO member, or that it means that it now benefits from the protection of the military alliance. Many social media users were taken in by the propaganda and actually thought that Qatar had joined NATO and become an ally.

However, a NATO official based at its headquarters in Brussels categorically denied all such claims.

“Qatar is a very active partner of NATO, but it’s not a NATO ally,” the official told Arab News. “NATO has 29 allies (27 European countries as well as Canada and the US).”

Qatar watchers were not surprised by the Doha-inspired propaganda.

“Qatar is such a tiny country and it has often punched above its weight. So I am not surprised by the fallacious claim of its media and followers that it has become a NATO member. It is a joke,” said Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh.

He expressed surprise, though, that NATO should enter into any agreement with Qatar.

Other analysts see this agreement as another step Doha has taken to adhere to the demands of the Anti-Terror Quartet, comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. However, analysts told Arab News that Doha wants to save face by not making terror-combatting agreements with its fellow Arab nations, but with foreign entities such as NATO and the US Department of Justice.

Political commentator Oubai Shabandar says the deal should not be blown out of proportion.

“This is a standard agreement between NATO and a non-NATO member country that deals with information-sharing privileges that are shared by other countries in the Arabian Gulf region. It would be a major stretch to consider this development as being anything more than what it really is: A diplomatic agreement along the lines that NATO enjoys with other Arab states, no more, no less,” he added.

Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

Pro-government drive in an industrial district in the eastern outskirts of the port city Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 45 min 59 sec ago

Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

  • Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday
  • UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week

SANAA: Iran-backed Houthi militias have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeidah, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.

Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday, apparently getting ready to head toward Hodeidah, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.

Men, some of whom looked very young, were lining up with bandoliers around their shoulders and rifles in their hands, chanting Houthi slogans.

Residents said on Sunday that relative calm had held in Hodeidah city since pro-government forces announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a cease-fire and UN-led peace efforts.  They added, however, that they remain on edge.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets on Sunday carried out a series of strikes targeting Houthi positions west of Marib. The strikes, which were accompanied by shelling, came after the Iranian-supported militia launched ballistic missiles toward the city of Marib. Coalition forces successfully intercepted the missiles, Yemeni army media said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Houthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive in Hodeidah.

Griffiths said on Friday that both the government and the Houthis have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution and have given “firm assurances” that they will attend the talks. No date has yet been set.