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Friday, December 3, 2021

Dubai’s ruler awards Qatar’s Sheikh Joaan, are relations improving?

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The recognition has been seen as a sign of rapprochement between the royal families of Dubai and Qatar, experts say. 

The President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, has been named the Arab Sports Personality of the year by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative. 

Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced on Tuesday the winners of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Sports Creativity in its 11th session in Dubai.

The award comes in recognition of Sheikh Joaan’s great efforts and achievements in sports, the Qatari royal has chaired the QOC since 2015 and during that time has overseen the hosting of several major tournaments including the Handball, Squash and Padel Word Championships, as well as basketball’s FIBA world Cup.

It’s also been under his tenure that Qatari athletes have won the most olympic medals in the nation’s history, returning from the Japan games after making headlines.

But whilst sports analysts point to the merit for Sheikh Joaan to receive such an award, political analysts are assessing whether this recognition, from one of the Emirates’ rulers should be seen as step towards mending ties between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. For almost four years the UAE was one of four countries to impose a land, air and sea blockade on Doha with that crisis ending just this year through the signing of the Al Ula declaration on January 5. 

“Having the Maktoums reaching out to the Al Thanis is not necessarily a sign of a rapprochement between UAE and Qatar but a rapprochement between the royal families of Dubai and Qatar,”  Dr. Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at the School of Security Studies at King’s College London and researcher of Middle East and North African Studies told Doha News.

Read also: Qatar’s FM meets MBZ in first UAE visit since GCC crisis

“I think it is important to highlight that the relationship between Doha and Dubai was never really affected as negatively by the crisis as the relationship between Doha and Abu Dhabi,” Dr. Krieg said, pointing out the contradiction between Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s attittude towards Qatar. 

Last month, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with the UAE’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan in Doha.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said that the officials “reviewed aspects of the bilateral cooperation and means of developing the relations to serve the interests of the two countries.”

Sheikh Mohammed traveled to Abu Dhabi in October in the first such visit by a Qatari official to the Emirates since the 2017 GCC crisis.

During that visit, the Qatari diplomat met with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Emirati government news agency [WAM] confirmed at the time that the two sides met to further discuss ways to strengthen ties between the two countries. 

“It is important to highlight that the Gulf Crisis was an Abu Dhabi-led initiative that predominantly affected Dubai negatively rather than Doha,” Dr. Krieg noted. 

In August, the UAE’s National Security Adviser and brother to Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, met with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha. This was also the first such high-level visit to the Qatari capital since the GCC crisis.

“Dubai requires Qatar as a partner to build its soft power as Doha is one of its major competitors,” Dr. Krieg added. 

“Having positive political relations between Doha and Dubai will ultimately translate into business opportunities. The Maktoums and the Al Thanis believe more pragmatically in win-win diplomacy,” he said. 

Commenting on the economic aspect, President of Qatar Academy for Security Studies (QIASS), Dr Majed Al Ansari highlighted that Dubai is more interested in resuming economic ties with Doha rather than politics, which is where it contradicts with Abu Dhabi’s agenda.

“In the past months, we have seen positive developments in the relationships with even Abu Dhabi and Doha within the framework of Al Ula resolution and one can assume that the relationship especially with Dubai is more geared towards economic relations with Doha rather than political,” Al Ansari said.

This goes back to the fact that Dubai’s Gross Domestic Product is heavily reliant on non-oil based sectors, such as trade and tourism. Therefore, “Dubai would be in need of economic partners in the region as soon as possible, especially due to the competition between Doha and Dubai in becoming a hub for international investment, therefore coordination between the two cities will become quiet important,” Al Ansari added.


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