Can Turkey become a problem solver in Qatar crisis ?

.: July 25, 2017

Unal Cevikoz, former Turkish ambassador, examines the role that his country could play in the resolution of Qatar crisis.

The terms “conflict” and “dispute” are often used interchangeably. A more scholarly and academic approach, however, argues that there is a difference between the two. Australian diplomat and academic John Burton has contributed to a better understanding of this difference by developing “conflict resolution” as an academic discipline. Burton’s arguments and explanations are widely accepted in today’s studies of peaceful resolution of disputes or conflicts. According to him, a dispute is a short-term disagreement, whereas a conflict is a long-term one. It is therefore more difficult to resolve conflicts. It is also important to note that a conflict generally emanates from a broad area of issues where separate and specific disputes can arise. Disputes, therefore, may stem from a conflict.

The thin border between conflict and crisis

Disagreements, therefore disputes and conflicts are inseparable from human nature and existence. When differences polarize and become unresolvable, they turn into disputes and conflicts. From an individual to the group level, these disagreements may also take the form of matters to be resolved between states. Sometimes they are referred to as “crisis.” When they escalate, they transform into confrontations. Therefore, peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts is necessary in order to prevent their escalation to such levels, because they may also result in wars.

For peaceful resolution of disputes or conflicts there are several mechanisms. A “third party” is always helpful, and in most cases very effective, in the peaceful resolution processes. “Good offices” and “Mediation” are diplomatic methods generally implemented for those purposes. Good offices are relatively passive processes, and they entail low profile actions by the third party, such as bringing the opposing parties to dialogue or negotiation. Mediation is a mechanism recognized by international law. Therefore, it is a more active process with the power to cause change or to communicate actions. An even more legal form of mediation is arbitration.

Turkey as a neutral intermediary

As both mediation and arbitration have legal connotations and consequences, it is generally preferred to have a third party playing the role of a “facilitator.” A facilitator may be quite functional in bringing the disputing parties together with a view to engaging them in a meaningful dialogue through a conversation of mutual respect. Whether it is facilitation, good offices, mediation or arbitration, all these mechanisms of peaceful resolution of disputes or conflicts have certain common characteristics. Obviously, these processes involve a third party. In all the resolution mechanisms, this intermediary third party has to be unbiased, objective and impartial. This third party should not have any hidden agenda or any prepared statement.

The third party intermediary’s chances for success are higher if it has the ability to listen and tact. If and when the intermediary expresses personal opinions or feelings, this may immediately cause suspicion in either of the parties to the dispute and may result with loss of confidence in impartiality. The “Qatar crisis” between Qatar and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt can be interpreted as a dispute. Many believe that there are deeper differences between Qatar and the rest, which suggests that the recent crisis is a dispute originating from a wider and deeper conflict. Therefore, peaceful resolution is necessary.

The question is: Can Turkey play the role of an intermediary between Qatar and the rest? Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt insist that Qatar should stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and North Africa. They have, however, a similar perception about Turkey, too. Turkey, as soon as the crisis started, has hastily passed a resolution in its parliament to deploy troops in the navy base it has recently established in Qatar. This has reduced the confidence in Turkey’s impartiality, too. Also, Turkey itself is in a state of dispute with Egypt, which raises the concerns on Turkey’s objectivity and its unbiased status. An intermediary also needs to have a good and reliable international status. Turkey is already having tension in its relations with the U.S., Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the European Union. Can Turkey play the role of a facilitator in the Qatar crisis? Well, let us wait and see.

Unal CEVIKOV © Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey)

Unal Cevikoz is the former ambassador of Turkey in Azerbaijan, Irak, and United Kingdom and currently the president of the International Maritime Organization

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