Qatar denies it is planning to leave GCC

Rumours of Qatar’s imminent exit from Gulf grouping have been rife in recent weeks.
Friday 29/05/2020
A file picture shows Qatar’s Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, center, next to Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah during the 40th GCC Summit in Riyadh, last December.( AP)
A file picture shows Qatar’s Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, center, next to Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah during the 40th GCC Summit in Riyadh, last December.( AP)

LONDON--Qatar has denied reports that it plans to quit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), founded in 1981 and headquartered in Riyadh, as it nears three years of dispute with its Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.

“Reports claiming that Qatar is considering leaving the GCC are wholly incorrect and baseless,” Qatar’s assistant foreign minister Lolwah al-Khater said May 28.

Doha’s denial that it plans to pull out of the organisation comes after a flurry of trips by Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who travelled to Oman and Kuwait in an attempt to help break the country’s diplomatic isolation.

During his visits, al-Thani conveyed messages from Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani to Kuwaiti Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah and Omani Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq al-Said.

Group picture of Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at the GCC summit held at the Saudi capital Riyadh on December 10, 2019. (AP)
Group picture of Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at the GCC summit held at the Saudi capital Riyadh on December 10, 2019. (AP)

Oman and Kuwait are the other two members of the GCC, which oversees regional economic and military coordination.

On May 27, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al Sabah arrived in Saudi Arabia for a short visit to deliver a written message to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the Kuwaiti emir.

The move indicates that Kuwait could be trying to revive mediation efforts to resolve the longstanding crisis as Gulf countries face mounting economic and security challenges.

The region has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, a decline in global oil prices and connected social and economic challenges but Doha has a particular stake in putting an end to the Gulf dispute.

It continues to feel the brunt of the diplomatic and economic boycott by the Arab quartet led by Saudi Arabia. Qatar witnessed last week a rare protest by foreign labourers over unpaid wages.

“Qatar hopes the GCC will once again be a platform of cooperation and coordination. An effective GCC is needed now more than ever, given the challenges facing our region,” al-Khater said.

Rumours of Qatar’s imminent departure from the GCC have been rife in Gulf capitals in recent weeks.

“Such rumours must have originated from people’s despair and disappointment with a fractured GCC, which used to be a source of hope and aspiration for the people of the six member countries,” al-Khater said.

Since the beginning of the diplomatic crisis, Qatar has launched a media campaign against boycotting GCC states, which it says are acting unjustly with their demands.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, along with non-GCC member Egypt, cut diplomatic, economic and travel ties with Qatar in June 2017 over Doha’s alleged support for terrorist groups and its close ties with archrival Iran.

Qatar rejected the charges and refused to accept 13 demands made by the blockading nations. The demands included the closure of the Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network, and shutting a Turkish base in Qatar.

The dispute will enter its third year on June 5.