Qatari Foreign Policy: Shaping the future of conflict resolution
in the Middle East

Alfa Uddin, Client Executive

The transformation of Qatar from a low-profile Gulf peninsula to a global heavyweight in contemporary peace-making is nothing short of remarkable. The tiny, gas-rich emirate has rapidly ascended on the international stage over the past two decades, positioning itself as a progressive and pivotal player in both the Arab world and the broader global community.

Yet, what drives Qatar's foreign policy agenda? The answer is revealed in a closer examination of its diplomatic strategies and geopolitical objectives.

Qatar's foreign policy is a multifaceted strategy aimed at safeguarding its sovereignty and promoting international peace, particularly in the face of its geopolitical vulnerabilities. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1971, Qatar has pursued an independent foreign policy trajectory, rejecting external pressures, including British plans for it to join the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Key to Qatar's foreign policy prowess is its economic strength, fuelled by its natural resources, particularly gas. Qatar leverages its economic advantage to not only wield influence but also to facilitate conflict mediation amongst other entities, such as the United States and the Taliban. This relational power strategy hinges on the deployment of wealth as a primary instrument for exerting influence on the global stage.

More recently, Qatar has adopted softer approaches to its foreign policy, leveraging tools such as media, sports, and tourism. This strategic shift has facilitated Qatar's emergence as a regional power through major infrastructural projects and flagship initiatives such as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM.

Additionally, Qatar’s strategic location between Saudi Arabia and Iran underscores the importance of its foreign policy in safeguarding itself.  This geopolitical reality dictates a nuanced approach to foreign relations aimed at securing the state from potential issues with its larger neighbours. These factors enable Qatar to play a tactical role in regional and global affairs, earning the title of a key player in contemporary peace-making efforts by world leaders, including praises from President of the United States, Joe Biden.

The Qatari constitution underscores the nation's foreign policy goals, including fostering international peace, respecting self-determination, avoiding interference in other states' affairs, and cooperating with peace-oriented nations, as stated in Article 7. This is why Qatari mediation efforts span various approaches, from traditional diplomacy in conflict zones like Yemen and Lebanon to multi-track efforts engaging political groups and civil society in areas such as Darfur in Sudan.

As Qatar's foreign policy continues to succeed, its approach has sparked tensions among neighbouring states adopting similar strategies. Over the next 6-12 months, Qatar may face intensified competition and scrutiny, particularly from regional rivals. This heightened competition could lead to increased diplomatic pressure, and we may see underlying regional tensions come to light.

One challenge Qatar may encounter is navigating its delicate relations with neighbouring countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Qatar must carefully consider its bilateral relations with these two nations and its role in ongoing conflicts, particularly due to potential increased involvement of countries like Iran in the current conflict in Gaza. Finding a way to assert its influence without exacerbating existing tensions requires careful diplomacy and strategic manoeuvring.  

As a small state with global influence, Qatar will want to maximize its proactive role in international diplomacy. This will entail enhancing institutional knowledge and expertise in conflict resolution, particularly in post-settlement implementation and ceasefire monitoring. By doing so, Qatar could see itself contributing significantly to shaping a new template model for conflict resolution, especially in the broader context of the Middle East.

Looking ahead, it's evident that the geopolitical future of the region will most definitely be influenced by Qatar’s involvement in conflicts as they hope to play a constructive role in regional diplomacy.

The extent of this role; however, is all dependent on the on the intricate interplay of local and international political and economic forces, and wider interests, and external forces in the region.

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