Qatar faces be­ing booted out of bloc

GULF CRI­SIS CON­TIN­UES

The Citizen (KZN) - - WORLD -

Bahrain’s for­eign min­is­ter yes­ter­day sug­gested sus­pend­ing Qatar’s Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC) mem­ber­ship un­til it ac­cepts the de­mands of its Arab ad­ver­saries in the re­gion’s worst cri­sis in years.

“The cor­rect step to pre­serve the GCC would be to freeze Qatar’s mem­ber­ship un­til it sees rea­son and ac­cepts the de­mands of our coun­tries. If not, we will be fine with it leav­ing the GCC,” Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khal­ifa said on Twit­ter.

Bahrain, Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt on June 5 sev­ered ties with Qatar over ac­cu­sa­tions of sup­port­ing ex­trem­ism and be­ing too close to Shi’ite ri­val Iran, charges Doha has de­nied.

Founded in 1981, the GCC is a politi­cal and eco­nomic union that in­cludes Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. Ex­perts have warned the nearly five-month­long diplo­matic cri­sis could cause its demise.

Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies in June is­sued Qatar with a list of de­mands, in­clud­ing shut­ting down Doha-based broad­caster Al-Jazeera, curb­ing re­la­tions with Iran and clos­ing a Turk­ish army base.

“Bahrain will not at­tend a sum­mit with Qatar, which be­comes closer to Iran each day and brings for­eign forces [to its soil], dan­ger­ous steps for the se­cu­rity of GCC coun­tries,” Sheikh Khalid said.

GCC mem­bers are sup­posed to meet be­fore the end of the year, but the cri­sis could see the bloc’s an­nual meet­ing post­poned or can­celled. Af­ter sev­er­ing ties with Doha, Riyadh and its al­lies closed land and mar­itime borders, sus­pended air links and ex­pelled Qatari ci­ti­zens.

In an in­ter­view on Sun­day, Qatar’s emir ac­cused Saudi Ara­bia and its Arab al­lies of seek­ing to top­ple his govern­ment.

“They want a regime change. It’s... so ob­vi­ous,” Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al-Thani told CBS’s 60 Min­utes. “They tried to do that be­fore in 1996 af­ter my fa­ther be­came the emir. And they made it also so ob­vi­ous in the last cou­ple of weeks.”

Qatar’s ruler said he was ready for US-hosted di­rect talks aimed at solv­ing the worst diplo­matic cri­sis in the Gulf in years, but has yet to hear a re­sponse to US President Don­ald Trump’s invitation to the four Arab states boy­cotting Doha.

Speak­ing to CBS, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad alThani said he wanted an end to the dis­pute. “Noth­ing is go­ing to be above our dig­nity, our sovereignty. But we want it to end,” he told 60 Min­utes.

“If they walk one me­tre to­ward me, I’m will­ing to walk 10 000 miles to­wards them.” –

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