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Bahrain calls for freeze on Qatar’s GCC membership

DUBAI: Bahrain called yesterday for Qatar’s membership of the Gulf Cooperation Council to be suspended until it accepts the demands of its neighbors and said Manama would not attend GCC meetings alongside Doha. “The correct step to preserve the GCC would be to freeze Qatar’s membership until it sees reason and accepts the demands of our countries. If not, we will be fine with it leaving the GCC,” Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said on Twitter.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on June 5 severed ties with Qatar over accusations of supporting extremism and being too close to rival Iran, charges Doha has denied. Founded in 1981, the GCC is a political and economic union that includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as Oman and Kuwait.

Bahrain’s King Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa announced later yesterday that his country would not attend any future GCC meeting if Qatar was to take part. “Qatar has proved today that it does not respect charters, treaties and bonds upon which the GCC was founded,” the king said during a cabinet meeting, cited by BNA news agency. He also accused Qatar of undermining the security of other GCC member states. “So long as Qatar continues on this path, Bahrain will not attend any Gulf summit or meeting in the presence of Qatar unless it rectifies its policy and accepts the demands” of the Saudi-led bloc, the king said.

GCC members are scheduled to meet before the end of the year, but the Gulf crisis could see the bloc’s annual meeting postponed or cancelled. Experts have warned that the nearly five-month-long diplomatic crisis could lead to the GCC’s demise. Saudi Arabia and its allies in June issued Qatar with a list of demands, including shutting down Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera, curbing relations with Iran and closing a Turkish military base in the emirate. After severing ties with Doha, Riyadh and its allies closed land and maritime borders, suspended air links and expelled Qatari citizens.

In an interview aired on Sunday, Qatar’s emir accused Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies of seeking to topple his government. “They want a regime change. It’s… so obvious,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani told CBS’s 60 Minutes. “History as well tells us, teaches us. They tried to do that before, in 1996 after my father became the emir. So, and they made it also so obvious in the last couple of weeks,” he said. “They don’t like our independence, the way how we are thinking, our vision for the region. We want freedom of speech for the people of the region. And they’re not happy with that. And so they think that this is a threat to them.” – AFP


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