Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, together with Egypt, had all cut ties with Qatar from June 5, 2017 and there was a sliver of hope that the GCC summit would help defuse the situation.
Mediation efforts led by Kuwait have so far fallen short of resolving the worst crisis to hit the GCC since its creation 36 years ago.
And now, the rift between Qatar on one hand and its GCC counterparts Saudi, UAE and Bahrain, on the other, has widened instead of tightened, with four separate but related events.
First, Saudi King Salman did not attend the GCC summit in Kuwait.
Second, the GCC summit was abruptly terminated on Tuesday a day earlier than programmed.
Third, the UAE announces a new Joint Cooperation Committee between it and Saudi Arabia covering all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields.
Finally, the war in Yemen just intensified a few notches, taking precedence over other issues.
It’s been a busy 24 hours.
The King’s absence
Saudi King Salman sent a strong message to the six-nation GCC, by sending his foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir to head the Saudi delegation to the summit in Kuwait, in essence implying that times have changed, and that a new direction is not warranted.
Qatar was apparently caught unawares of this, as the country’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was present at the summit.
GCC breathing its last?
Has the curtain fallen on the GCC in 2017?
It certainly appears in jeopardy despite attempts at putting it on life support.
“The last six months have witnessed a rift in our Gulf home, but we must look to rebuild as the GCC has achieved a great many things, and still has a long road ahead,” said Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, in closing the ceremony.
Kuwait’s state news agency (Kuna) reported him as adding that over the past six months, GCC leaders have managed to calm the situation, an important step to address the feud.
“Any dispute on the Gulf level must not affect the continuation of the summit,” he said.
Sheikh Sabah was open to revising the GCC’s statute to allow it to continue its leading political role in the Gulf, Kuna reported.
The Tuesday gathering was held behind closed doors.
Saudi and the UAE and are spearheading the war in Yemen and have now launched a new alliance that tightens their control over how the war will proceed but apparently also how the future GCC might look like.
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has issued a Resolution forming a Joint Cooperation Committee between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
According to the Resolution, the 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 Committee shall have all the powers necessary for carrying out and executing its work.
In May last year, a meeting in Jeddah between King Salman and Sheikh Mohammed was followed by the announcement of a coordination committee composed of senior government officials from both countries.
Yemeni War intensifies
Reuters reported that the Saudi-led coalition intensified air strikes on Yemen early on Wednesday December 6, 2017, as the Houthis consolidated their control on the capital Sana’a.
“Saudi Arabia and its allies struck a day after Saleh’s son vowed to lead a campaign against the Houthis,” said Reuters.
“The proxy war has already killed more than 10,000 people, with more than two million displaced,” said Reuters.
Saudi Arabian warplanes have also struck the Houthi occupied presidential palace several times, stepping up attacks on the rebels after Saleh who had a recent change of heart and had offered Saudis a way out of the conflict before he was killed.
Qatar ‘s name has been mentioned on more than one occasion in this conflict, lately as trying to mediate between former president and now deceased Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis.
Qatar has denied that.