Despite Saudi Blockade, Qatar Plans to Attend Trump Peace Conference in Bahrain

A source involved in organizing the conference told Haaretz Qatar will participate in the conference. This comes just days after Palestinians announce they would boycott it

File photo: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, (R), with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, (L), at the State Department, Washington DC, April 24, 2019.
AP

WASHINGTON — Qatar plans to attend the international conference on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain in June, Haaretz has learned.

Qatar is the third country to confirm its participation after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a source involved in organizing the conference told Haaretz.

Qatar has been under a Saudi-led blockade for almost two years, with Bahrain and the UAE, close allies of Saudi Arabia, also supporting it.

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Should Bahrain allow a Qatari delegation to attend the conference, it would be a rare instance of cooperation between the sparring Gulf nations, and a gesture of goodwill on Saudi Arabia and UAE's part toward the Trump administration. 

Qatar's Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “Qatar will spare no effort to contribute to addressing all the challenges facing the Arab region as a whole, while maintaining its firmed principled positions and the highest interests of the Arab peoples, including the brotherly Palestinian people."

The statement reaffirmed Qatar’s position that improving the state of the Palestinian economy will also require a political solution, “in accordance with a framework acceptable to the brotherly Palestinian people, based on ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a fully sovereign Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to the right of return for Palestinian refugees, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy.”

The Qatari announcement came just days after the Palestinian Authority officially announced it would not participate in the conference, and called on other Arab countries not to support it.

Qatar has been the most significant donor for the Palestinians over the past year. It has recently pledged $480 million in support of the West Bank and Gaza, with most of the money intended for the Palestinian Authority

The team working on the U.S. peace plan, which is led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is poised to convince as many Arab countries as possible to attend the conference, despite the Palestinian objections to it.

The American delegation that includes Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Kushner’s deputy Avi Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, will be officially led by Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin.

Most other delegations are also expected to be represented by finance or economy ministers. 

Qatar’s participation in the conference, alongside Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will likely lead to more countries joining it.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Qatar just this week, in order to discuss the country’s economic support of the Palestinians. 

The country's decision to participate in the conference next month despite Palestinian opposition and its own feud with the other Gulf states, is a sign of the country’s close relations with the Trump administration.

Qatar's participation in the conference is seen by the administration as a major breakthrough and an achievement for the Kushner-led team, both because of the Palestinian objection to it as well as the Saudi-Qatari dispute.