Even if Qatar leaves, bloc will not implode
Doha’s decision to quit Opec sparks speculation about GCC exit as well
Will the 39th GCC summit in Riyadh today be associated with ‘Qatexit’ if Qatar, one of its six founders, exits the 37-year-old alliance?
Speculation surrounding a possible ‘Qatexit’ is rising amid reports that Qataris are seriously pondering withdrawing from the GCC, days after the country’s Energy Minister, Sa’ad Al Ka’abi, unexpectedly said his country was pulling out of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).
“No decision has been made yet, but there are discussions about the possibility,” Gulf diplomats told Kuwaiti daily Al Rai.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in addition to Egypt, on June 5, 2017, severed their diplomatic, trade and travel relations with Qatar and despite mediation efforts led by Kuwait no breakthrough has been achieved.
The Quartet accused Qatar of supporting extremists, ■ interference in the domestic affairs of other countries and funding terrorism. They issued a list of 13 demands that Qatar should meet ahead of resuming normal relations.
However, Qatar denied the accusations and rejected the demands, resulting in a crisis that has been compounded by aggressive media campaigns — unprecedented in their nature and unequalled in their scope.
Today, 18 months into the open crisis, and although Qatar was invited to attend the 39th GCC summit, there is speculation that Doha would use arguments similar to the ones about its withdrawal from Opec to exit the GCC. Qataris said Opec was “just being used for purposes that harm our national interest”, and they could be tempted to make the same claims about the GCC now.
The Qatari criticism is seen by analysts as part of a drive that wants an end either to the crisis or to the GCC for failing to find solutions.
“Qatar has been pressing for an end to the spat and there are now indications that it is pondering ways to implode the GCC, the only pan-Arab alliance that has thrived despite all kinds of challenges for more than 37 years,” Mohammad Jaber, a Gulf analyst, said.
However, Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was confident that the GCC would keep moving forward as an entity despite the Qatar crisis.
“The GCC summit in Saudi Arabia and the upcoming Omani presidency indicate that the GCC will continue moving forward despite the Qatar crisis,” Gargash tweeted on Thursday.
GCC affairs analyst Hamad Al Amer said: “There are no solutions in sight for the Qatar crisis, especially after Doha took steps that confirmed that it was out of tune with the other GCC states.”
There are no solutions in sight for the Qatar crisis, especially after Doha took steps that confirmed that it was out of tune with the other GCC states.”
Hamad Al Amer | GCC affairs analyst
Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah chairing the previous edition of the GCC summit in Kuwait in December 2017.