Gulf officials discuss ‘cooperation’ ahead of GCC summit
Qatar blockade high on the agenda for next month’s GCC summit that takes place in Saudi Arabia.
Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries held a virtual meeting discussing “cooperation” ahead of a regional summit next month amid efforts to end a rift between Qatar and a Saudi-led alliance.
Bahrain said in a statement that the virtual meeting took place on Sunday to lay out the groundwork for the 41st session of the GCC summit to be held on January 5 in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait took part in the meeting hosted by Manama, while Qatar was represented by its minister of state for foreign affairs.
In June 2017, the blockading countries – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – accused Qatar, among other things, of supporting terrorism and being too close to Iran and severed economic and diplomatic ties.
The four countries imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar.
Qatar has repeatedly denied the allegations and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations.
The blockading quartet issued a list of 13 demands, including the closure of the Al Jazeera Media Network as well as a Turkish military base, which Qatar promptly rejected.
However, Riyadh has recently pushed for a resolution of the dispute as it seeks to soften criticism from United States President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to take a firmer stance with the kingdom than his predecessor.
‘End to regional disputes’
During the virtual summit, the GCC addressed “suggestions on supporting and strengthening joint Gulf cooperation in various political, economic and social aspects”, according to a statement by Kuwait’s foreign ministry.
This comes after Manama called for an “end to regional disputes” on Wednesday, softening its rhetoric surrounding the Gulf crisis.
On Sunday, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdellatif al-Zayani expressed confidence “in Saudi Arabia’s ability to find a solution to the dispute within the Gulf”.
Al-Zayani added during the meeting that his country hoped for a return to normalcy in the region, according to Bahraini media.
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 say the UAE has been reluctant to compromise.
Sources privy to the negotiations have said the Saudi-led quartet was willing to compromise on its list of demands, with the upcoming summit providing a path to reconciliation but not a final comprehensive agreement.
An agreement could result in a set of principles for negotiations or a more concrete move involving the reopening of air space to Qatar.
But Qatar has told Kuwait and the United States, the two mediators in the dispute, that any resolution including of foreign policy should be based on mutual respect.