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Senior Qatari Diplomat Discusses Country’s Role in International Dispute Resolution

March 4, 2024

For a country of some 2.5 million people, Qatar punches above its weight in international diplomacy and conflict mediation. On March 4, 2024, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, the minister of state in Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center in Washington, D.C. to discuss his country’s role in international dispute resolution and how it approaches the task of mediating difficult conflicts in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Al-Khulaifi’s appearance at the Bloomberg Center was part of the Johns Hopkins SAIS Dean’s Speaker Series, which brings prominent leaders and policy practitioners to SAIS every year for insightful perspectives and discussions of international issues, leadership, and other relevant topics.

For the State of Qatar, dispute resolution is a strategic priority.

Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, minister of state in Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“For the State of Qatar, dispute resolution is a strategic priority,” Al-Khulaifi told the audience. He outlined several key points that guide Qatar’s decision-making on whether to get involved in mediating any dispute, as well as its approach during the mediation process. Among them:

  • Gaining the trust of all the parties involved

  • Obtaining written consent from the parties (to legitimize the work of mediation)

  • Carefully deciding the location of the mediation discussions

  • Engaging with international partners and United Nations agencies

  • Focusing on the cultural aspects (gaining a deep understanding of both parties/all the parties)

In addition, Al-Khulaifi said, Qatari diplomats seek to start the negotiation process by finding any issues, even relatively small ones, on which the parties can find common ground, and then gradually working their way up to the more difficult issues. He called this “the low-hanging fruit approach.”

During a conversation that followed Al-Khulaifi’s remarks, SAIS Dean James Steinberg asked him how Qatar decided to begin playing a greater role in international dispute resolution. Al-Khulaifi said the country started with one or two early cases, and then quickly realized that it could do more in this respect.

However, Al-Khulaifi did not hesitate to acknowledge how tough it can be to resolve international disputes, some of which have lingered for many years. It can be even harder, he said, to ensure that the terms of the agreements that do get signed are followed to the letter. “Sustainability is one of the most difficult things to achieve in the mediation process,” he noted.

Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi was appointed minister of state for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2023. Prior to that, he had served as assistant foreign minister for Regional Affairs since 2022. Before joining the Ministry, Al-Khulaifi was the dean of the College of Law at Qatar University. He received his bachelor’s degree in law from Qatar University and holds a master’s degree and a PhD in law from the University of California Berkeley.

Qatari Diplomat
Qatari Diplomat
Qatari Diplomat
Qatari Diplomat