Qatari PM at Davos: End Gaza war to stop Houthi attacks

Qatari PM at Davos: End Gaza war to stop Houthi attacks
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar believes that defusing the conflict in Gaza will stop the escalation on other fronts
3 min read
Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani speaks at WEF 2023 [Getty]

Military strikes will not contain attacks by Yemen's Houthis on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea, but an end to the war in Gaza will, Qatar's prime minister said on Tuesday during the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani described the current regional situation as a "recipe for escalation everywhere" and said Qatar believes that defusing the conflict in Gaza will stop the escalation on other fronts.

"We need to address the central issue, which is Gaza in order to get everything else defused...if we are just focusing on the symptoms and not treating the real issues, (solutions) will be temporary," he said.

Conflict has spread to parts of Middle East since Israel's war on Gaza began on 7 October, with groups allied to Iran carrying out attacks in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi group has since November been attacking vessels in the Red Sea, part of a route that accounts for about 12% of the world's shipping traffic, in what they say is an effort to support Palestinians in the war with Israel.

US and British forces have responded by carrying out dozens of air and sea strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen since Friday.

Sheikh Mohammed said US and British attacks create "a high risk of further escalation and further expansion of" the conflict.

"We always prefer diplomacy over any military resolutions," he said.

The Qatari prime minister also said that liquefied natural gas shipments will be affected by tensions in the Red Sea. 

"LNG is... as any other merchant shipments. They will be affected by that," Sheikh Mohammed said, referring to the increasing exchanges with Yemen's Houthis.

"There are alternative routes, those alternative routes are not more efficient, they're less efficient than the current route," he added.

Rather than use the key route between Asia and European markets, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade, some shipping companies are now taking a major detour around southern Africa.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that at least five LNG vessels operated by Qatar had stopped en route to the Red Sea.

Sheikh Mohammed added that without a viable, sustainable two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, the international community will be unwilling to finance the reconstruction of Gaza.

"The bigger picture cannot be ignored," he said, urging the international community to require Israel to agree to a time-bound, irreversible pathway to a two-state solution.

"We cannot leave this just at the hand of the Israelis," he said.