UAE says Gulf Arab bloc still strong de­spite row with Qatar

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD -

DUBAI — The United Arab Emi­rates said on Thurs­day the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil re­mained valid de­spite a bit­ter row with Qatar that has frac­tured the bloc ahead of an an­nual sum­mit next week.

Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE, Bahrain and non-GCC mem­ber Egypt have im­posed a diplo­matic and eco­nomic boy­cott on Qatar since June 2017 over al­le­ga­tions Doha sup­ports ter­ror­ism. Qatar de­nies the charges and says the boy­cott aims to cur­tail its sovereignty.

“The main suc­cess of the coun­cil is in its eco­nomic as­pects and the cre­ation of a Gulf com­mon mar­ket,” UAE Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs An­war Gar­gash said.

“The cri­sis will end when the cause be­hind it ends and that is Qatar’s sup­port of ex­trem­ism and its in­ter­fer­ence in the sta­bil­ity of the re­gion.”

The dis­pute has un­der­mined the re­gional role of the six-na­tion GCC, set up in 1980 as a bul­wark against larger neigh­bors Iran and Iraq.

Last week, Qatar an­nounced it was quit­ting OPEC af­ter 57 years to fo­cus on gas in an ap­par­ent swipe at the bloc’s de facto leader Saudi Ara­bia.

The move has deep­ened the sense among diplo­mats and an­a­lysts that any prospect for a near-term res­o­lu­tion to the dis­pute was un­likely to come at the GCC sum­mit in Riyadh.

Saudi Ara­bia’s king has in­vited Qatar’s emir to at­tend the Sun­day gath­er­ing of heads of state, but Doha has not yet to say what level of rep­re­sen­ta­tion it would send.

Bahrain’s for­eign min­is­ter said in re­marks pub­lished on Thurs­day that the level of Qatari rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the one-day sum­mit was ir­rel­e­vant.

“It is the same whether they at­tend or not,” For­eign Min­is­ter Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khal­ifa told the pan Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The cri­sis with Qatar has reached un­prece­dented lev­els and I don’t know how they will come back from that, as Qatar has joined it­self with the re­gion’s en­e­mies such as Iran and dis­tanced it­self from the GCC.”

Qatar’s ruler last month said the dis­pute “ex­posed the fail­ure” of the GCC and harmed re­gional se­cu­rity by weak­en­ing the block which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE.

At last year’s sum­mit, Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Bahrain sent min­is­ters or deputy prime min­is­ters.

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