GCC structure may have to change: Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah

Sheikh Sabah urges caution in the face of challenges as meeting in Kuwait City is cut short following a closed session.

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani gestures as he poses for a family photo during the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in Kuwait City
Tuesday's meeting took place six months after the announcement of Qatar siege [HI Mohammed/Reuters]

The structure of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) might have to change in the near future to face upcoming challenges, the emir of Kuwait has said.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah made the remarks as a summit of the GCC in Kuwait City concluded abruptly on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, with all the delegates leaving Kuwait after a closed session.

“We might change the system of the GCC to have mechanisms to better face challenges,” Sheikh Sabah said, referring to the GCC crisis that began on June 5.

On that day, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE – all GCC members – cut ties with Qatar after accusing it of supporting “terrorism”, allegations that Qatar strongly denies.

Sheikh Sabah also hinted at the possibility of setting up a task force to deal with future rifts within the GCC.

“The truth is, the GGC already has a mechanism to form a task force to deal with internal disputes,” Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Kuwait City, said.

“A lot of criticism in the last few months has come from people asking where has this task force been to solve the GCC crisis.

“The reality is, if there was genuine interest to solve this, then we would have at least the deputy heads of state here.”

‘Major progress’

The meeting in Kuwait City – the 38th annual GCC summit – took place exactly six months after the announcement of the siege of Qatar.

“The mere fact that it convened is major progress, especially in the absence of true progress in bridging the gap between Qatar and, on the other hand, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain,” Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the UAE announced that it had formed a new economic and military partnership with Saudi Arabia separate from the GCC.

That announcement, combined with the absence of high-level officials from the blockading countries, was loaded with significance, our correspondent said.

“The countries that have laid the Qatar siege decided to send low-level diplomats to represent them. Bahrain decided to send a third level diplomat, the deputy prime minister. Saudi Arabia sent Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign minister, instead of a royal family member,” Al Jazeera’s Elshayyal said.

“This shows that they no longer care about the GCC.”

Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was one of the few to send a royal family member to the Kuwait summit.

“I am full of hope that the summit will lead to results that will maintain the security of the Gulf and its stability,” Sheikh Tamim said. 

Oman had announced that a high-ranking official would represent Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, while al-Jubeir led the Saudi delegation.

‘Effectively dead’

The agenda of the Kuwait summit had not been made public, but the Gulf crisis was believed to be a top priority.

“It seems that there is an intention by the Saudis and Emiratis, especially with the timing of the announcement [of the new partnership] today, to say that the GCC is effectively dead,” said Majed al-Ansari from Qatar University.

“It is clear now that Emiratis and Saudis have no intention of supporting stability in the GCC, no intention of supporting Kuwait’s mediation efforts, and no intention to end the crisis one way or another.”

The talks could have defined the very future of the bloc that was established in 1981 for closer economic, trade and security partnerships on the Arabian Peninsula.

In October, Sheikh Sabah, who has been mediating between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc, warned of the potential collapse of the GCC if the crisis continued.


In late October, the king of Bahrain said his country would not take part in any summit or meeting attended by Qatar unless Qatar “corrects its approach”.

Sheikh Tamim has agreed to resolve the crisis through dialogue, but Kuwait’s call for talks has not been accepted by the blockading countries.

Another important issue for the bloc was the ongoing war in Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing the poorest nation in the Middle East since March 2015, creating one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of modern times.

During his speech, Sheikh Sabah called for a political solution to the war.

“The only solution in Yemen is a political solution. We urge the Houthi [rebels] to reach a political solution to the crisis in Yemen,” he said in his statement.

The killing on Monday by Houthi rebels of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the removed Yemeni president, has thrown the Arabian Peninsula country into deeper chaos.

Source: Al Jazeera