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Kuwaiti FM, Zayani stress on GCC unity, strategic ties

KUWAIT: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers meet at Bayan Palace yesterday. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) unity and solidarity is still intact, standing against various kinds of challenges and trials over the years, affirmed First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah yesterday. Delivering his opening speech to the 144th foreign ministers’ meeting held ahead of the 38th GCC Summit on Dec 5-6, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled welcomed the meeting’s participants, saying that their presence will contribute to the success of the summit. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar attended the round-table talks, in their first such encounter since Riyadh cut all ties with Doha.

Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled thanked Bahrain for hosting the 37th GCC Summit, affirming that the fellow GCC country is an integral member of the council. He also thanked the GCC Secretariat and participants for attending the preparatory meeting. The Kuwaiti foreign minister stressed the importance of the current summit, noting that it will contribute to the continuation of the council’s success.

HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and his fellow GCC leaders are hopeful that the summit will continue to be the venue that serves the people of the region and carries on the rapid development of GCC nations, said Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled. He noted that the GCC’s supportive stance during the Iraqi invasion in 1990 and the subsequent liberation of Kuwait in 1991 was one of the many instances that proved the strength of the regional body against aggressors. The Kuwaiti foreign minister hoped that the current summit will meet the aspirations and dreams of the people in the region and would continue the GCC’s strong stride towards a bright future.

GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani said strategic ties linking the members of the GCC must continue to address current and future challenges. Zayani thanked the Kuwaiti leadership for hosting the grand event, which he hoped will continue the success story of the council. HH the Amir’s strong support to the GCC’s stability, security and cooperation is a clear example of Kuwaiti generosity and supportive stance, said Zayani.

Zayani congratulated Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled for hosting the ministerial meeting, indicating that it will be one the main reasons for the success of the summit. Zayani also thanked Bahrain for hosting the previous summit in Manama. The secretary general thanked the council’s top consultative authorities and the secretariat for contributing to the ministerial meeting, saying that the GCC leaders will look into decisions which will come in favor of the development of Gulf countries. The GCC Summit is very crucial under the current circumstances, said Zayani, who affirmed that Gulf leaders were up to the task at hand.

Omani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yussef bin Alawi sat between Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir. The meeting was also attended by UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash and Bahrain’s assistant foreign minister Abdullah Al-Dossari. The Qatari foreign minister left immediately after the meeting, as the rest of the ministers headed for a lunch banquet. None of the ministers agreed to give any statement to the press.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani will be at the summit today, but less than 24 hours before it was due to begin it was still unclear whether the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain would also attend. Those three Gulf states, together with Egypt, cut all ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the gas-rich emirate of supporting extremists and of being too close to Iran, Riyadh’s arch-rival. Qatar denies the allegations.

Mediation efforts led by Kuwait have failed to resolve what is the worst crisis to hit the GCC in its 36-year history, casting serious doubts over the future of the six-state alliance. As Kuwait readied to host the two-day GCC summit, analysts said its efforts to bring about a peaceful end to the crisis may be at a complete standstill. “The crisis is too deep and very complicated… I don’t think it will be resolved during the summit,” said independent Kuwaiti political analyst Saleh Al-Saeedi. “But I think Kuwait hopes to at least freeze the dispute, stop its deterioration and move on to the next step.”

Founded in 1981, the GCC is a political and economic union grouping Qatar with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as Oman and Kuwait. Qatar has accused the Saudi-led Arab bloc of aiming to incite a change of regime in Doha. Besides the Qatari emir, it is still unclear who will attend. Oman has said it will be sending a senior official to represent its ruler Sultan Qaboos, who traditionally stays away from summits. The other GCC states have yet to announce who they would be sending, although some Kuwaiti media have reported Saudi King Salman may attend.

After cutting off all ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a land, sea and air blockade of the emirate and issued a list of 13 demands to have it lifted. Bahrain in October openly called for Qatar’s membership of the GCC to be suspended until it accepted the demands. Experts warn that the crisis could lead to the demise of the once-powerful GCC. “The justifications for the existence of the GCC bloc amidst the continued crisis are no longer present like before,” said Sami Al-Faraj, head of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies. “As long as our enemy has changed from Iran to Qatar, the GCC will not continue.”

The failure of the GCC members to solidify long-delayed plans for economic unity may also threaten its future. The Gulf states have approved a customs union, a common market, a single currency and a single central bank but most of these have yet to be properly implemented.

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