France’s former culture minister Audrey Azoulay – File Photo France’s former culture minister Audrey Azoulay – File Photo

Gulf crisis undermines Qatar’s attempts to win UNESCO post

Tue, Oct. 17, 2017
CAIRO – 17 October 2017: The Qatari crisis with the Arab Quartet is believed to have affected the results of the UNESCO elections held last week, especially as Doha was criticized over the misuse of their financial might to secure the race, to no avail.

France’s former culture minister Audrey Azoulay was elected to become UNESCO's new director general, beating Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdul Aziz al-Kawari with 30 votes to 20 due to the crisis between Qatar and Saudi-led Gulf countries, according to France 24.

The Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz claimed Qatar offered bribes to 29 countries, including the United States, to win their support in the five rounds of the UNESCO election. But, Qatar’s inability to garner the support of its Gulf neighbors was a stinging blow to Doha's efforts.

Out of the nine countries vying for the UNESCO election, there were four Arab candidates including those from Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq.

However, the victory of France’s candidate highly depended on the collapse of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, hampering the Arab countries from reaching a consensus around a single Arab candidate to lead the Paris-headquartered international organization.

“Internal divisions in the Arab world, especially between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the failure of the Arab world to form a consensus around a single candidate are emblematic of divisions in the region,” Leslie Vinjamuri, associate fellow at London-based thinktank Chatham House, told France 24.

American foreign policy also attributed the loss of the Qatari candidate in the UNESCO elections to the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors.

The Qatari candidate received 19 votes in the first round and 20 votes in the second round, 18 votes in the third and 22 votes in the fourth round, casting suspicions about the power of money used by the Qatari regime to buy support. On October 13, UNESCO's executive board chose Azoulay as the UN agency's new chief.

Qatar’s relations with several Arab states have been strained since May 24 over a leaked statement attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, criticizing Gulf foreign policy with Iran, describing it as “unwise.”
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