GCC Summit: Efforts still on to resolve Gulf dispute

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Saudi king Salman, centre, chairs the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Cairo: This year’s Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, held in Saudi Arabia for the second year in a row, was convened amid serious efforts to defuse a 2-1/2 year dispute between Qatar and a Saudi-led quartet. Qatar’s prime minister attended the gathering, in the most concrete sign yet of a possible thaw in a regional dispute, but the meeting ended without public mention of the row.

Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani’s presence, the most senior Qatari to attend the annual gathering since 2017, follows an intensification of efforts to resolve the Gulf dispute.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-GCC member Egypt imposed a political and economic boycott of Qatar in June 2017 over allegations that Doha backs terrorism.

Kuwait and the United States have tried to mediate the rift. A senior regional official told Reuters that Kuwait recently was working “extremely hard to come up with reconciliation... supported by the United States”.

Efforts to end the row, including talks between Qatar’s foreign minister and Saudi officials in October, appeared to intensify after attacks in September on Saudi oil plants that initially halved the kingdom’s output and heightened regional tensions.

Riyadh and Washington blame Iran for the assault as well as earlier strikes this year on tankers in Gulf waters.

20-MINUTE MEETING

A closed-door meeting lasted less than 20 minutes before a final communique echoed the need to boost military and security cooperation and pledged to create a financial and monetary bloc by 2025.

After it was read out, Kuwait’s ruling emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who has long pressed to resolve the Qatar dispute, commended the call for unity.

Addressing King Salman, he said: “God willing, the coming meetings will be better than past meetings.”

A Western diplomat said the summit was unlikely to bring an immediate end to the dispute.

The Qatari premier last visited Saudi Arabia in May for an emergency summit to discuss regional security following an attack on tankers in Gulf waters.

The Quartet has repeatedly demanded Doha to comply with a set of conditions to end the standoff. The demands include Qatar’s severance of links with militant and terror groups, scaling down ties with Iran and shutting down Al Jazeera TV, seen as a mouthpiece of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar has refused the conditions, saying they violate its sovereignty.

Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani skipped the Riyadh summit. He sent the emirate’s Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani to head the Qatari delegation at the gathering, the official Qatar news agency QNA reported without explaining the cause of the Emir’s absence.

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