February 26, 2017

Omani-Kuwaiti drive gets no traction in GCC

Going nowhere. Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said (R) greets visiting Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. (KUNA)

London - Efforts by Kuwait and Oman to kick-start dialogue with Iran to ease regional ten­sions seem to be going no­where if recent statements by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials are any indication.
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al- Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah travelled to Muscat to follow up on the recent visit by Iranian President Hassan Rohani to Oman and Kuwait in his first trip to GCC countries since be­coming president in 2013.
The Kuwaiti emir’s meeting with Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said centred on tensions between Iran and the GCC, focusing on re­solving the almost 2-year war in Yemen. The GCC supports the inter­nationally recognised government while the Islamic Republic has been arming and backing the Houthi re­bels.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who was once the target of an assassination plot by Tehran, dismissed its calls for dia­logue. During the Munich security conference on February 18th, Jubeir said: “Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
“It’s determined to upend the or­der in Middle East… Until and un­less Iran changes its behaviour, it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this,” he said.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash also dismissed Iran’s calls for dia­logue.
“[Iranian Foreign Minister Mo­hammad Javad] Zarif calls for a re­gional dialogue in the Arabian Gulf. For the dialogue to be serious and away from propaganda, Tehran must stop interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours,” Gargash wrote on his official Twitter ac­count.
Iran’s push for talks with GCC members coincided with tougher rhetoric from the Trump admin­istration. US President Donald Trump has called the 2015 nuclear deal championed by the Obama ad­ministration “the worst deal ever negotiated” and pledged to nullify it or seek better terms. The United States placed additional sanctions on Iran after it test-launched a bal­listic missile in January.
Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in January 2016 after mobs attacked its diplomatic missions in Iran over the execution of a radical Shia cler­ic.
Iran retaliated by banning its citizens from attending last year’s haj. However, on February 23rd, a Saudi official met with an Iranian delegation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, regarding preparations for the upcoming haj season.
The Saudi press agency said Mo­hammed Bentin, Saudi minister in charge of pilgrimages, and the Iranian delegation discussed “ar­rangements concerning participa­tion of the Iranian faithful” in this year’s haj. Bentin said discussions covered “arrangements of recep­tion of pilgrims and their housing and movement to provide services that contribute to performing their rituals with ease and contentment”.

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