The unhealing rift

Wednesday, 2019-06-05 14:05:20
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General view of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 30, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - Efforts in sitting together to find a solution to the common problems of Arab states in the Persian Gulf seem to have failed to achieve the expected results, as internal division has become more and more profound. Unresolved disagreements and fierce controversies have caused the Gulf countries to sink deeper into the regional diplomatic crisis.

Controversy erupted after a series of emergency summits recently held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Qatar expressed reservations over the Mecca summit outcome due to regional tensions with Iran. Doha said that the statements adopted at these summits condemned Iran but did not refer to a moderate policy to speak with Tehran, and that the statements of the Gulf and Arab summits were readied in advance and Qatar was not consulted on them. Qatar added that the Mecca summit ignored the important issues of the region, such as the Palestine issue and the wars in Libya and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia launched an initiative to organise three high-level conferences in Mecca, namely the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, the 14th Islamic Summit hosted by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League, with an aim to find solutions against threats and actions for the Arab nations in the future. The conferences took place in the context of regional security issues heating up, due to escalated tensions between the US and Iran, and problems in Iran’s relations with the Gulf states. At an emergency Arab summit, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman stated that decisive action was needed to stop Iranian “escalations” following attacks on Gulf oil assets. In a communiqué at the end of the Mecca meeting, the six Arab members of the GCC pledged their support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE to take the required action in response to attacks on their oil infrastructure and tankers. The countries also discussed joint Arab defence mechanisms under the Gulf Cooperation Council.

However, statements made at the summits are faced with strong opposition from Iran and Qatar. The Iraqi President has also opposed the communiqué issued by the Arab participants. Baghdad affirmed its stance on easing tensions in the Middle East and focusing on dialogue to resolve the regional crisis. Meanwhile, Qatar had reservations on the Arab and Gulf summits because some of their terms are contrary to Doha’s foreign policy. “The Gulf summit statement talked about a unified Gulf, but where is it amid the continuation of Qatar’s blockade?”, said the Qatar’s foreign minister.

Qatar’s grievance came as a result of the Gulf diplomatic crisis over the last two years. Two years ago, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all simultaneously suspended diplomatic, trade and transport relations with Qatar due to allegations of Doha supporting the terrorist groups and interfering in internal affairs of countries in the region.
These countries expressed their opposition to Qatar’s criticism of GCC’s statements against Iran and conducted policies to isolate Doha. Saudi Arabia and its allies issued a threatening 13-point ultimatum to Qatar, stipulating that Doha close the broadcaster Al-Jazeera, drastically scale back cooperation with Iran, and remove Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil. However, Qatar rejected all allegations and offered countermeasures, pushing the region into the deepest division in the GCC history.

Healing the rift among Arab states in the Gulf was one of the topics discussed at the recent summits in Mecca. However, the dialogue efforts did not meet expectations. Saudi Arabia and the UAE criticised Qatar for diverting negotiations after Doha announced its objection to the summits' outcome. The summits expected countries to dismiss disagreements towards building the future of their peoples, but conflicts of interest made the countries unable to find a common voice.

Concerns about Iran have not been resolved and the rift in the relationship between some Arab countries and Qatar has not been healed. The countries are determined not to give in to strategic interests and the region is witnessing a fierce competition.