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GCC Summit: Yemen crisis might thaw Qatar’s relations with the GCC

The killing of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president, may have changed the course of the Yemeni war, but it has likely changed the dynamics of Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s 38th GCC summit in Kuwait also.

After all, fighter jets and ground forces from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, did participate in the Saudi led coalition against the Houthis in Yemen.

And while Saleh’s recent turnaround in favour of a Saudi truce may have sparked hopes of an end to a taxing war, his sudden death may have prolonged it even further.

There is no better time to do a truce with Qatar, and focus efforts on fighting Houthis.

Read: UAE refutes Houthi missile claims, reassures confidence among citizens

Will this happen?

Call for unity

The GCC summit marks exactly 6 months (from June 5, 2017) since the announced isolation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, on the premise that Doha allegedly supported and funded terrorism, which Doha categorically denied.

Formed in 1981, the six country nations, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are gathering around a yet unannounced agenda, but two issues are likely to take center stage: Qatar and Yemen.

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Why are the two topics interconnected?

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash used Twitter to accuse Qatar of playing a role in an attempt to “save” the Houthi militias in Yemen, but Qatar’s foreign affairs media director, Ahmed bin Saeed al-Rumaihi, rejected the claim as baseless.

Abdullatif Al-Zayani was speaking as GCC foreign ministers held a preparatory meeting on Monday for the 38th session of the Supreme Council of the GCC.

Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah also stressed cooperation, and joint action to meet the challenges that threaten regional security and stability.

“The GCC is a continuous project in which the will of member states meets to build a unified Gulf body,” he said.

Kuwait has played mediator between the boycotting countries and Qatar.

Read: Bahrain US trade deal an attempt to squeeze out of financial trouble

Bahrain in October openly called for Qatar’s membership of the GCC to be suspended.

Qatar’s foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said last Sunday that his country was willing to discuss concerns that relate to collective security in the region.

The Saudi delegation is headed by Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani would fly to Kuwait City for the meeting.

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Yemen still boiling

According to Reuters, the son of Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh who was killed by the armed Houthi movement after switching sides in the civil war, called for revenge against the Iran-aligned group on Tuesday, Saudi-owned al-Ekbariya TV quoted him as saying.

“I will lead the battle until the last Houthi is thrown out of Yemen … the blood of my father will be hell ringing in the ears of Iran,” Ahmed Ali Saleh told Saudi-owned al-Ekbariya TV.

This only spells bad news for Yemen but Qatar denied reports that Doha was mediating between the Houthis and forces loyal to now deceased Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Qatar’s daily newspaper the Peninsula reported.

Read: ‘The right step to preserve the GCC is to freeze Qatar’s membership’

While Qatar was part of the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen civil war in 2015 and in charge of securing Saudi Arabia’s southern border, it was dismissed from the coalition in June this year, following the boycott.

It is estimated that the war in Yemen costs $5.3bn alone in Saudi defence budget in 2015.

Reuters estimated said that Saudi Arabia is spending $175 million per month for bombings in Yemen and additional $500 million for ground incursions.

Saudi allocated $56.8bn only for military and security spending which comprise more than 25% share of total 2017 budget.