GCC summit in doubt as Gulf crisis continues

Sunday 22/10/2017
Common concerns. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) welcomes Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah in Riyadh, on October 16. (Saudi Press Agency)

London- Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sa­bah Ahmad al-Jaber al- Sabah’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia was an ef­fort to persuade King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to attend meetings in Kuwait to save the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) from collapsing because of the crisis with Qatar, Gulf sources said.
They said the Saudi position was clear that a summit couldn’t be convened given the current situa­tion. The kingdom, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, severed ties with Qatar on June 5 over what they described as Doha’s interference in their coun­tries’ internal affairs and its sup­port for radical groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, designated as a terrorist organisation in all four countries.
Kuwait, along with fellow GCC member Oman, has been neutral during the dispute and has been a mediator in the crisis but with little apparent success.
The sources added that Riyadh doesn’t believe the GCC will col­lapse if the summit is postponed until the matter is resolved in Qa­tar, either through its acceptance of demands issued by the Arab quartet or a leadership change.
Sheikh Sabah and King Salman discussed “regional developments and a number of issues of com­mon concern” during the October 16 meeting, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency, SPA, reported.
Gulf diplomatic circles said Sheikh Sabah tried to persuade GCC members that the unity of the body is more important than differences that can be overcome over time. However, the likelihood of convincing the quartet appears unlikely.
“The four countries boycott­ing Qatar, especially Saudi Arabia, will not accept a compromise with Qatar. There is no grey area in this matter,” Saudi researcher Salman al-Ansari said.
“Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly keen on preserving the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council, but Qa­tar has become a bad apple that if not isolated will spoil its surround­ings.”
Reports in Arab media stated that the annual GCC summit, scheduled for December in Kuwait, might be postponed or relocated to Riyadh.
The London-based online pub­lication Elaph reported its sources said a GCC summit in December was unlikely because the dispute continues.
The publication’s sources report­edly said, if a summit were to be called, it would be in Riyadh and that an invitation would not be extended to Qatar, despite state­ments by Doha that a Gulf summit couldn’t be held without Qatar.
A Washington-based source told Elaph that Gulf Arab countries might form a new council starting with three countries whose poli­cies would be unified and aimed at working for the benefit and inter­ests of the region.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a think-tank in London, said the dispute might have permanently damaged the GCC because of “the strident nature of the public diplomacy on both sides.”
“Qexit — the prospect of Qatar leaving the GCC — has not yet be­come an accepted neologism but it was openly discussed. The UAE, in particular, has argued vociferously for a new set of relations in the Gulf,” IISS said.