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Full Name: Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal
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Saudi Arabia successfully hosts GCC summit on Qatar





Leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members gathered in Riyadh on Nov 16 for a summit to discuss issues of common interests, mainly Qatar's policy towards other member countries. The summit was chaired by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaiz Al Saud and attended by UAE Vice President Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktum, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Amir of Kuwait Shaikh Subah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Subah, Amir of Qatar and Shaikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani. They discussed disputes between Qatar and a group of three countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.


Amid unprecedented acrimony between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states over Qatar’s controversial support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain all withdrew their ambassadors to Doha in March, while attributing the reason to Qatar's direct and indirect interference in internal issues of GCC countries, and to its supports for individuals and organisations that endanger the stability and security of Gulf countries. This sparked one of the GCC’s worst diplomatic rows since its creation in 1981.



Among a variety of modern-day issues, the central concern animating this round of difficulties is Qatar's support for various groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood -- the long-suppressed pan-regional Islamist movement that swept to power in the Egyptian elections of 2012 before being deposed by the military a year later. The spout was instigated by Qatar’s support of certain movements and groups that stirred unrest in some states, said Khaled al-Matrafi, regional manager of Al Arabiya News Channel in Riyadh. These groups, which adopted “orientations and policies that opposed those of the GCC, posed the most major points of conflict and led to the withdrawal of the ambassadors,” he said.

Qatar simply will not do as it's told by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have spent months trying to force the energy-rich nation to fundamentally alter its foreign policy. After withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar in March, and Bahrain, the UAE and the Saudis have kept up the pressure ever since.


Fortunately, the meeting between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders ended after resolving a long-standing schism with fellow member-state Qatar meeting between GCC leaders. A result of the meeting, the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors to Qatar will return to their posts in Doha following eight months of tense relations. The assembly reached an agreement that “promises the opening of a new page that will present a strong base, especially in light of the sensitive circumstances the region is undergoing,” the GCC said in a joint statement. “Based on this, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have decided to return their ambassadors to Doha,” it said. Additionally, the annual GCC summit was also confirmed to take place on Dec. 9 to Dec. 10 in Doha, the correspondent reported.


Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah has been leading efforts to bridge the gap between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The leaders, who travelled with their foreign ministers and other cabinet members or senior officials, were greeted by Crown Prince Mugran bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani.


The summit was crucial because the annual GCC summit expected to be held next months in Qatar depended on the success of the summit. The GCC summit might be cancelled or postponed to give Qatar a period of six to one year to correct its stances and implement Riyadh agreement that was drafted early summit in Riyadh. If the summit failed then there will be no summit in Qatar and it will be held next year in Kuwait.


Qatar is fast emerging an important Arab nation leading the Islamic movement in the region and elsewhere, the strongest supporters of  the Palestinians.   Naturally, Saudi Kingdom does not appreciate Qatar trying to overtake Saudi leadership. Already Saudi leadership is facing a strong Islamist movement in Turkey and elsewhere, ignoring the kingdom in importance.

Of course, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are nothing new. Qatar has striven since the late 1980s to escape the Saudi political orbit by vigorously pursuing its own independent foreign policy -- regardless of the displeasure it caused in Riyadh. The Saudis, for their part, have never liked the rejection of its leadership from an uppity small country like Qatar that it sees as barely more than an appendage of its own state. But for all the pressure Saudi Arabia exerted on Qatar -- including withdrawing its ambassador from Doha from 2002-2008 -- it could not put the Qatari genie back in the bottle. A modus vivendi was reached in 2008, but the current crisis seems to mark another attempt to put Qatar in its place.



Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE accused Qatar of meddling in their internal affairs by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated a “terrorist” group by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Doha asked Brotherhood leaders to leave Qatar earlier this year following diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia.


The contents of the summit reveal a renewed cooperation among the GCC members who consider unity is more important than our differences. The agreement marks an end to the crisis between Qatar and the other GCC members, Jamal Kashoggi, according to the Al Arabiya News. “ Kashoggi also noted that the meeting signaled the beginning of a new approach adopted by GCC members when working together, which is “based on respecting the independence of each country, as long as no other country could hurt the security of the other.” “What happened last night with the agreement is that GCC unity is way more important than any difference between GCC countries,” he said.


In a statement on the official Kuwait news agency, Kuwait Parliament Speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem voiced “optimism” on the “efforts” by Sheikh Sabah to end the differences. “We hope the Riyadh meeting today comes to a happy ending that strengthens the GCC,” he said. As to the change in policy to abide by the agreement, he predicted that the media wars between the UAE and Qatar would come to an end. Each side began to cool it and calm down with the inflammatory rhetoric and that is good that is very positive because it was very much wrong for the countries to do this exchange,” he said, adding that how Qatar would continue its policy with Egypt is another thing to monitor.

The surprise meeting in July between Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was prompted by the conflict in Gaza, yet it could also be a step towards resolving tensions within the GCC. That Emir Tamim personally travelled to meet King Abdullah at his Jeddah palace was a sign that the two monarchs want to move towards normalising ties, while also trying to snuff out another regional fire before it becomes more of a danger.

The meeting was to try to bridge the gaps between Arab states and come to a type of unity approach to have Gaza ceasefire that lasts, said sources  from  research and consultancy at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. Over 1200 Palestinians, including children, have been killed during the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which began on July 8. Thirty-four Israelis have been killed.

Achieving that unified approach would mean lessening the regional rivalry that the conflict has brought into stark focus. An early Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire agreement was accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas, which said it was not contacted about it. Afterwards, Qatar, one of Hamas’ main backers, which was reportedly also working on a ceasefire initiative, stepped in to offer itself as a conduit to communicate with the group, which many among the international community consider a terrorist organisation.

While the United States and United Nations encouraged a role for Qatar, its policy of supporting Islamist groups such as Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was what caused tensions with other GCC states to boil over in the first place.

Saudi is eager to see Qatar has a much reduced influence in Islamic world. Amid the regional politicking, Egypt, which is ruled by military bosses, got elected by boosted polls, borders the Gaza Strip with terror blockades to support Israeli plan, and is the “traditional mediator” of conflicts between Israel and Hamas, is where the international community appears to be looking to for the next ceasefire proposal.


While Saudi Arabia, one of Egypt’s main backers, does not want Qatar to play a prominent role in mediating the Gaza conflict, it recognises that the growing number of regional crises must be addressed and Doha is part of that equation. Saudi expects Cairo to mediate, and not Qatar, and wants to shift initiatives from Qatar to Egypt so that is and USA can manipulate. The dynamics of the region have stayed with Qatar.


Already facing ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia does not want the Gaza war to become another opportunity for its regional rivals. Although their relationship was strained by the war in Syria, Hamas and Iran have recently moved to repair ties. For Riyadh, ending the conflict before Hamas begins searching for additional supporters means talking to Qatar.

What Saudi Arabia really doesn’t want is to have Iran get involved in this issue but it does not actively defend the Palestinians and leave them to their own crude fate when Israeli military attacks them.  Riyadh says this is not in anybody’s interest given the nature of this conflict. They also don’t want to see Iran’s fingerprints in this. GCC feels peace in Mideast should not depend on Iran.  

A Doha-based researcher said that while Emir Tamim’s trip came as a surprise, it might be part of efforts made in the last few months “to restore normal ties between Qatar and Saudi Arabia”. He added that the visit was “a good move” and that Saudi Arabia was the right place for Qatar to start to try to end its regional isolation.

Doha is scheduled to host the 35th annual GCC summit later this year and it is likely that diplomatic momentum is building for tensions to be eased ahead of that meeting.


Indeed, GCC summit saved the nations go from bad to worse. Officially, Qatar is back to GCC fold. By using its influence in Washington and other western capitals, Saudi Arabia can play more constructive role  on Palestine as well . 

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