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39th GCC Summit: Qatar raises uncertainties by skipping event

Qatar had an opportunity to mend bridges with its fellow GCC members. However, following its OPEC exit, it also did not attend the 39th GCC summit, leaving the door open for speculation on future membership with the 6-country alliance.

GCC leaders met this Sunday in Riyadh, where the member countries discussed currenongoingsgs and plans for the future and issued the “Riyadh Declaration”.

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Excerpts read as follows:

“Today, the countries’ leaders reaffirm their eagerness to maintain the strength and cohesion of the GCC, and the unity of its members, due to their special relations and common characteristics based on Islamic faith, Arab culture, long history, common destiny as well as the unity of purposes that connect their nations.

“Much has been done towards achieving equal treatment for all Gulf citizens. However, the new challenges that we face today, require additional achievements to strengthen the common Gulf action, and to complete the necessary steps, programs and projects required for economic, social, political, security and military integration.

Image: Reuters

“The countries’ leaders stressed today the importance of completing the necessary programs and projects to achieve the vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (Saudi King Salman), and they called to take the necessary steps to achieve this, including:

-Developing a road map including activating necessary procedures in order to achieve complementarity among the GCC countries based on the leader`s vision, to lay the foundations for framing and regulating relations among the GCC member states and the international community to achieve higher growth and prosperity to meet aspirations of the GCC citizens. This is in addition to achieving the economic reforms in the GCC countries aligned with the objectives of joint Gulf action, strengthening the security and stability of the Gulf region, raising the GCC countries status, enhancing the performance of GCC institutions and promoting its regional and international role.

-At the economic level, the leaders called for strict commitment to the timelines that have been set to accomplish economic integration among the GCC states, implementing all the terms of the economic agreement, and removing all the barriers and obstacles that are getting in the way of implementing joint action resolutions, especially overcoming obstacles that are getting in the way of meeting the requirements of  the Gulf Common Market and Custom Union, and issuing the necessary legislative regulations for this purpose to achieve economic unity among GCC stated by 2025.

-The leaders stressed the important role of GCC countries, the business sector, Gulf women and families and NGOs in preserving the gains of the Council’s approach, presenting constructive proposals to support them and implementing the decisions and directives issued by the leaders at this summit.”

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Qatar abstains?

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Image: Reuters

Despite the summit attempting to maintain a sense of unity among GCC members, with Saudi’s King Salman going as far as extending an invitation to Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatari emir has abstained from this year’s meeting.

Uneasiness has mounted in recent days, with Qatar announcing its exit from OPEC – a bold move many international news outlets interpreted as politically charged.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister tweeted about the Emir of Qatar’s absence.

“It would have been better for the Emir of Qatar to accept the just requests and present himself to the summit,” Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed said.

According to ABC news, King Salman made no mention of Qatar at the summit, but Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah did, warning of internal divisions threatening the GCC and urging its members to stop a “media war.”

As it currently stands, a solution seems much more unattainable, especially with Qatar seemingly carving a path for itself.

In June 2017, a political rift grew between Qatar and 4 other Arab states: GCC members Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain, and non-GCC member Egypt. The small Gulf nation was accused of supporting extremist groups that pose a security risk to the region.

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