GCC secretary-general Nayef Al Hajraf
The GCC secretary-general Nayef Al Hajraf has called for joint action among the council's members to deal with the impact of the coronavirus. Image Credit: WAM

Cairo: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is facing “unprecedented” challenges, including the Qatar crisis and the fallout from the new coronavirus, the grouping’s Secretary-General Nayef Al Hajraf has said.

Launched on May 25, 1981 in Abu Dhabi, the GCC comprises the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. The latter has been locked in a bitter dispute with a Saudi-led quartet since mid-2017.

“The Gulf disagreement, which is nearing its third year, constitutes a challenge to the GCC march and represents a common concern for all countries of the council,” he added in a statement marking the bloc’s 39th anniversary.

“There is a big belief, God willing, that this difference will be handled within the Gulf house,” he added.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt broke off diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its support for extremist groups.

The quartet has set several conditions to mend ties with Qatar, including the emirate’s severance of links with militant and terror groups.

Doha has refused the conditions, saying they violate its sovereignty.

Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad has since been making mediation efforts to defuse the crisis.

Al Hajraf, a former Kuwaiti finance minister, also pointed to the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on the GCC countries. “This matter makes it imperative for all of us as the GCC system to enhance joint action and collective preparedness to deal with the post-coronavirus world with its economic, health, security and labour dimensions in order to protect our people and preserve their gains.”

Al Hajraf took office as the GCC secretary-general last February succeeding Bahraini Abdullatif Al Zayani of Bahrain.