Bahrain calls for an end to Gulf dispute before regional summit

Manama’s Supreme Defence Council declares need to ‘end regional conflicts’ peacefully amid thaw in relations.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - comprised of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar - is expected to meet on January 5 in Saudi Arabia [File: Fayez Nureldine/AFP]

Bahrain has called for an end to regional disputes, the latest statement suggesting a rift between Qatar and four countries could ease ahead of a Gulf summit next month.

Manama’s Supreme Defence Council, led by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, convened on Wednesday and declared a need “to end regional conflicts and disputes by peaceful means”, according to the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia – along with its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – cut off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air embargo on the Gulf state, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and having ties with Iran that were deemed too close.

Doha has repeatedly rejected the accusations as baseless while highlighting its readiness for dialogue.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – comprised of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar – is expected to meet on January 5 in Saudi Arabia.

The softened rhetoric surrounding the three-year dispute comes amid Riyadh-led efforts to resolve the crisis.

Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said a resolution was in sight, with the four governments behind the blockade “on board” and a final agreement expected soon.

Egypt and the UAE have since given their public support to the negotiations, although diplomatic sources said the UAE has been reluctant to compromise.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said on Wednesday there were no political obstacles to resolving the Gulf crisis.

Rebuilding confidence

Speaking during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, the Qatari foreign minister insisted that the dispute be resolved by dialogue, respect of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.

“We will all emerge victorious from the crisis if we rebuild confidence in the GCC as a regional institution,” he said, adding that talks to resolve the crisis were with Saudi Arabia which represented the blockading quartet.

Qatar had a longstanding territorial dispute with Bahrain that was only resolved by the International Court of Justice in 2001.

Last month, two Bahraini boats breached Qatari territorial waters, Doha’s interior ministry claimed in a statement, a rare incident in the continuing Gulf crisis.

Bahrain insisted however that the two vessels, part of its coastguard fleet, had been wrongfully intercepted.

On Sunday, Manama accused Doha of confiscating 47 Bahraini fishing boats, but stressed during a cabinet meeting the next day “the importance of direct bilateral negotiations with Qatar to reach a lasting agreement” on fishing activities, according to the BNA.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies