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Qatar, Saudi Arabia say West neglects Mideast conflicts, but responds to Ukraine

‘It’s quite different’: Gulf states claim the global response to the war in Europe highlights inaction around crises like Yemen and Syria

Yemeni police inspect a site of Saudi-led airstrikes targeting two houses in Sana'a, Yemen, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni police inspect a site of Saudi-led airstrikes targeting two houses in Sana'a, Yemen, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Saudi Arabia and Qatar expressed regret on Saturday at a lack of attention to Middle East conflicts, as the West pushes them to show more solidarity with Ukraine.

“The humanitarian suffering that we have seen in Ukraine, and everyone is talking about it right now… has been the suffering of a lot of countries in this region for years and nothing happened,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told a roundtable at the annual Doha Forum.

“We have never seen a global response to address those sufferings,” he added, evoking “the brutality against the Syrian people, or against the Palestinians or against the Libyans or against the Iraqis, or against the Afghans.”

Neither oil kingpin Saudi Arabia nor gas-rich Qatar, both close to the West but with ties to Russia, have taken a strong position for or against Moscow since it invaded Ukraine last month.

Europe and the US hope the two countries will boost oil and gas production to help reduce Western reliance on Russian supplies.

The Qatari diplomat expressed hope that the Ukraine conflict would serve as “a wake-up call for everyone in the international community, to look at our region and to address the issues… with the same level of commitment that we have seen between Russia and Ukraine.”

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani looks on during a news conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken following a signing ceremony at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP)

Over a 100,000 people in Yemen have been killed, directly or indirectly, and millions have been displaced as a result of its years-long conflict, in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The war in Syria is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions more since it began with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011.

In a video message to the Doha Forum earlier Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Qatar, to increase natural gas production because of the conflict.

“The future of Europe rests with your efforts,” he told the audience that included the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Zelensky drew comparisons between the war in Ukraine and the conflict in Syria, where Russia’s intervention in 2015 was seen as having turned the tide in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan appeared to support the Qatari position.

“The engagement of the global community… now and then, it’s quite different,” he said at the forum.

“The trans-Atlantic unity right now, it’s commendable. But I think you have to have a much better conversation with the rest of the global community,” he said, addressing US and European officials at his side.

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