Amir calls for mechanism to resolve GCC disputes

FM stresses summit a success – UAE, Saudi Arabia form new alliance

KUWAIT: (From left) General Secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdullatif Al-Zayani, Kuwaiti Crown Prince HH Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani, Kuwaiti Amir HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister of Oman Fahd Al-Said, Bahrain’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Al-Khalifa, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash pose for a group picture during the GCC Summit at Bayan Palace yesterday.

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called yesterday for the formation of a committee that will look into modifying the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) statute to establish a clear mechanism for resolving disputes between member states. In his address to the 38th Gulf Summit, the Amir affirmed that this step will help the council to continue its leading role. The Amir said that he was pleased with the proceedings of the current summit, adding that it was important for the GCC members to continue such gatherings.

“Any dispute on the Gulf level must not affect the continuation of the summit,” HH the Amir said. He noted that despite “negative developments and sorrowful events” over the last six months, GCC leaders managed to calm the situation, which is an important step in addressing the recent feud. “We have been stormed in the past six months with painful and negative developments… but we managed to achieve calm,” he said.

Sheikh Sabah has been mediating to try to resolve a bitter dispute between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on the other. On June 5, the Saudi alliance cut off all diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of links to extremist groups. Doha has denied the allegations. “We will continue this role (mediation) in the dispute,” HH the Amir said. “Our meeting today is a reason to continue the mediation which fulfills the ambitions of our people.”

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who with Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah were the only heads of state to attend the meeting, acknowledged that the summit took place in “highly sensitive circumstances” in the life of the GCC. “I am full of hope that the summit will lead to results that will maintain the security of the Gulf and its stability,” Tamim said, according to the Doha-based Al-Jazeera.

The summit’s closing statement urged commitment to the six-nation bloc’s system and for the region’s media to “bear their responsibility” in encouraging unity. Reading out the ‘Kuwait Declaration’ at the session’s conclusion, GCC chief Abdullatif Al-Zayani said it was imperative that Gulf states unite in their efforts to face challenges and threats to their security and stability.

Zayani said Gulf leaders see eye-to-eye on achieving “unity and coordination” and strengthening their ties in the economic, security and military domains, particularly regarding the fight against terrorism. Gulf states are also keen to continue working on several joint projects, including the GCC joint market and their customs union. In conclusion, the declaration also warned that media representatives and intellectuals throughout the region should “bear their responsibility” in supporting efforts aimed at cooperation amongst the bloc’s member states.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim accepted an invitation to attend, but just hours before the talks were due to begin, Saudi King Salman sent his foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, in his stead. Bahrain sent its deputy premier and Emirati media said the state minister for foreign affairs would represent Abu Dhabi, sparking anger online by Kuwaitis that the nations boycotting Qatar had slighted their leader. Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said rarely attends Gulf-wide meetings. The meeting, scheduled to last until today, was cut to a single day. The UAE’s state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said on the sidelines of the summit that it had taken place under “sensitive circumstances and is a positive step”.

Speaking at a press conference after the summit, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah said that the holding of the GCC summit during these delicate situations reflects the GCC leaders’ conviction and faith in the GCC and its continuity. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said that Kuwait respects the level of representation and highly values that the six states attended, rejecting claims that the summit was not a success. Asked about the shortening of the session from two days to one, he said that this was “not the first time this has happened” throughout the summit’s 38 sessions, mentioning that the decision was taken unanimously by the bloc’s attending chief delegates.

KUWAIT: A general view of the GCC leaders attending the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Bayan Palace yesterday. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

Casting further doubt on the group’s future, the UAE yesterday announced a new partnership with Saudi Arabia, separate from the GCC – a move that could undermine the council amid the diplomatic crisis with Qatar. The Emirati foreign ministry announcement came just hours ahead of the GCC meeting in Kuwait. The ministry said the new “joint cooperation committee” was approved by the UAE’s ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nayhan. Saudi Arabia did not immediately comment on the new partnership.

The Emirati ministry said the new committee “is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries”. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have cultivated close ties in recent years. Emirati troops are deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nayhan, also is believed to be close to Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Emirati announcement did not say whether any other Gulf Arab countries would be invited to join the new group, but the development puts pressure the GCC.

By B Izzak and Agencies

This article was published on 05/12/2017