Complex Made Simple

Is the GCC diplomatic dispute finally ending?

The body's 41st summit is due to take place in the Saudi capital Riyadh amid hopes that it could witness an agreement to end a diplomatic crisis that has seen Qatar come under a blockade

Doha has repeatedly rejected accusations of supporting terrorism as baseless Egypt and the UAE have given their public support to the negotiations, None of the Quartet’s previous demands have been addressed.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday, December 26, 2020, instructed the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) top official to invite member countries’ leaders to a summit slated for Jan. 5, 2021.

The body’s 41st summit is due to take place in the Saudi capital Riyadh amid hopes that it could witness an agreement to end a diplomatic crisis that has seen Qatar come under a blockade by three of its fellow GCC members for three-and-a-half years now.

Calls for ending the crisis

Bahrain, one of the 3 GCC states currently at odds with Qatar has called for an end to regional disputes, the latest statement suggesting a rift between Qatar and four countries (UAE, Saudi, Bahrain, and Egypt) could ease ahead of a Gulf summit next month.

Manama’s Supreme Defence Council, led by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, declared a need “to end regional conflicts and disputes by peaceful means,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

Doha has repeatedly rejected accusations of supporting terrorism as baseless while highlighting its readiness for dialogue.

Read: GCC rift with Qatar may be mending and the US is in the middle of it

Read: Rebuilding GCC bridges: Saudi-Qatar relations may thaw

Earlier in December 2020, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said a resolution was in sight, with the four governments behind the blockade “on board” and a final agreement expected soon.

Egypt and the UAE have since given their public support to the negotiations, although diplomatic sources said the UAE has been reluctant to compromise.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani recently said there were no political obstacles to resolving the Gulf crisis.

Speaking during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, the Qatari foreign minister insisted that the dispute be resolved by dialogue, respect of sovereignty, and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.

“We will all emerge victorious from the crisis if we rebuild confidence in the GCC as a regional institution,” he said.

A truce may be coming but core issues remain  

David Schenker, assistant secretary of Near Eastern affairs at the U.S. Department of State, posited, fundamental ideological differences remain, even as truce talks are surfacing. 

“There’s not been a fundamental shift that (shows) we’re going to push the door open right now, but in our talks, we’re detecting a little more flexibility,” he said.

Qatar has remained steadfast in its pre-blockade agenda and none of the Quartet’s previous demands have been addressed.

In June 2017, the quartet issued a list of wide-ranging demands that included shutting down the Al Jazeera network and making fundamental changes to its foreign policy.  

Qatar has recently demonstrated how its military is rapidly growing with a formidable show of force showing vast quantities of advanced aircraft.