New hope for Gulf crisis

Saturday, 2021-01-09 10:55:36
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Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Nayef Falah al-Hajraf and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speak during a joint news conference at the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, January 5, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – The three Arab states in the Gulf (including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) and Egypt agreeing to fully restore relations with Qatar is a breakthrough that has thawed relations between the two sides, thus opening up the opportunity to end the crisis in the Gulf that has lasted more than three years.

However, the road towards resuming diplomatic relations among them will require more time to achieve mutual trust. The Arab bloc still has a lot to do to heal the rift and strengthen solidarity for stability and development.

The 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Saudi Arabia recently witnessed a very important achievement in the efforts to clear the deadlock in the crisis in the Gulf. A "solidarity and stability" agreement was signed between the GCC countries and Egypt and Qatar. Along with other signed documents, Qatar and the four Arab countries, which were in conflict with Doha, agreed to resume traffic and trade activities.

Doha said that it has agreed to suspend its legal cases related to the country's boycott, as well as resume cooperation in the field of counterterrorism. Saudi Arabia and Qatar agreed to reopen their borders and airspace to open up the flow of trade in the region. Qatar's only land border has been largely closed since mid-2017, when the four Arab countries launched a blockade against Qatar accusing the Gulf nation of supporting Islamic groups in the region and having an overly "warm" relationship with Iran.

The agreements to heal the relations between the Arab countries come in the context of the GCC wanting to eliminate disagreements within the group and work together to deal with common challenges in the region. Established in 1981, the GCC wishes to promote economic cooperation, such as establishing a common market and a customs union, as well as sharing currency and liberalising the labour market.

Co-owning giant oil fields which account for 30% of the world's total reserves, the GCC countries' economies largely depend on oil and gas exports. The occurrence of a diplomatic crisis led to mutual economic sanctions, causing many countries in the region to face difficulties, especially in the context that of their economies being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the decline in both oil demand and price. However, in order to completely end the crisis, the two sides need to continue to take measures to build trust in the context of many differences yet to be resolved, including geopolitical issues such as the situation in Turkey and issues related to Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

Many countries in the region and the international community welcomed the agreement to restore relations between the three Arab states in the Gulf and Egypt with Qatar, considering it a necessary step for the stability of the region. The Secretary-General of the Arab League (AL) said that any effective move to ease tensions among Arab countries and promote common order would be welcome as this would strengthen the influence of the Arab coalition.

The African Union (AU) lauded Kuwait's efforts to act as a mediator, making an important contribution to building a common peace in the region, considering it the "key" to improving relations between Africa and the Gulf countries.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) affirmed that recent positive diplomatic results will promote the restoration of unity within the GCC and the resumption of full cooperation among members of the organisation. The EU also expressed its support for promoting a negotiated inter-Gulf solution.

Although the newly signed agreements do not yet provide specific solutions and commitments, they create an important premise for further efforts to end the Gulf crisis. This new move closed a dark page in the history of relations among the GCC countries, encouraging nations in the region to continue to take steps in the right direction to heal the rift, hence contributing to a sense of unity within the entire Arab bloc.

The current trend of reconciliation needs to be promoted through measures to build and strengthen trust. The positive atmosphere in the region makes locals in the Gulf more confident that “April showers will bring May flowers”.