Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiyah attends a meeting with Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah in Kuwait City last month. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Compromise, coupled with a clearly delineated set of red lines would provide a clear framework within which the Gulf Cooperation Council can operate and avoid conflicts, say analysts.

Filled with hopes that the Qatari spat will not recur, analysts maintain decision making and problem solving in the GCC should be largely a matter of give-and-take among the various competing interests of the member countries.

“Compromise is meant to find the most favourable position for the GCC. Every GCC member state has a right to have their say and mutual concessions recognise that right, and give six members the ability to do so,” Dr Ali Fakhro, a leading Bahraini analyst and former minister, told Gulf News.

Dr Fakhro says mutual concessions might have precluded rifts between the GCC states had they given up a small token of their national sovereignty for the benefit of the rest of the group.

He explains that disagreements over foreign policy have existed between GCC countries before: over Libya, Syria, Egypt and Iraq. “Muscat looks favourably upon Iran while Saudi Arabia does not; the difference over Egypt is obvious.”

He says that it is necessary that the GCC set general principles for crisis management and establish a mechanism for dispute resolution; these deliberations must take place within private meetings, not in public, he stresses.

The Gulf states on April 17 said that they reached an agreement to end weeks of tension between six GCC members over Qatar’s support to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah on Thursday said his country has resolved its dispute with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

“The spat was nothing more than differences in opinion,” Al Attiyah said, ruling out any concessions given by any party.

Dr Fakhro says following the so-called Arab Spring and the Qatari rift there is a lesson to be learned.

On Iran, the US, Turkey, and even Israel, GCC countries have differed in their foreign policies.

In the case of Israel, some GCC members are being hesitant over normalisation of ties, while some have semi-normalised, and some completely normalised.

For Dr Fakhro, this disparity signalled the need for change. The time has come to establish three things, he says: standards for the GCC countries to abide by, general principles to guide GCC states forging their foreign policy, and “red lines” not to be crossed. These must be seriously negotiated, he says, as well as objectively, and knowledgeably.

The failures of the GCC have included establishing unified custom tariffs and adequate border management. The GCC is living a state of confusion, he says, and an “in-depth discussion about the future” is necessary.

He wishes Qatar had spoken honestly before other GCC members, explaining its actions so that it may be clarified which side of the rift has the best interest of the region in mind.

“We in the GCC act as if each country retains 100 per cent of its national sovereignty,” Fakhro says.

“And so, when I act upon my interest first and foremost, what does that do for the GCC?”

He suggests sacrificing 25 per cent of national sovereignty for the greater good of the GCC.

Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a leading Emirati analyst, agreed and said mutual concessions meant that Qatar’s name was not mentioned in the statement concerning the recent Riyadh deal, unlike the statement released in March to announce the withdrawal of ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain from Doha in protest over its meddling in their domestic affairs.

“Although there was no winner or loser in the Qatar rift, the GCC has risen stronger and more integrated from that challenge. It has become a power capable of developing home-grown solutions to their problems,” Says Dr Abdullah.

Dr Abdullah, however, warned the 33-year legacy of the GCC experiment was about to be recklessly ruined, in a scenario he described as was going from bad to worse.

He said Qatar has to choose between two options: The Muslim Brotherhood or the GCC.

“I believe the Qatari leadership has opted for choosing the GCC,” he said.

Hussain Abdul Rahman, a writer in Kuwait’s Al Qabas newspaper, says Qatar must abstain from certain practices to ensure good faith: refraining from granting citizenship to Muslim Brotherhood members, media campaigns against member states, intervention in internal affairs, and funding the Muslim Brotherhood.

Abdul Rahman adds that there have been plenty of indications of the weakness of the GCC.

“Even something like a football game can affect it,” he says. He cites lack of public participation as a reason, as well as absence of democracy.

Dr Yousuf Al Hassan, a leading diplomatic expert, stresses that integrated efforts for the future are the way forward, as opposed to unilateral policies.

“No one wants to see the GCC reach abyss politics,” he says, adding that political adolescence will get the GCC nowhere. He urges patience and wisdom.

“Since the very beginning of the Qatar crisis, I have been preaching that sending the GCC to a political abyss serves nobody’s interests.

“The peoples and leaders of the GCC member states should have clear awareness of just how lethal a threat the abyss politics pose to each and every member country,” said Dr Al Hassan.

Dr Ahmad Abdul Malik, a Qatari academic and writer, stresses that sovereignty of countries should not be encroached upon.

“Countries of any group like the GCC differ in views. Countries — even those bound by pacts — cannot copy each other’s policies. Because in every setting, there are differences. Praise be to Almighty Allah that the GCC has survived many political and security challenges,” Dr Abdul Malik said.

Dr Abdul Malik, who served as director of the media affairs at the GCC General Secretariat for six years, ruled out that the many difficulties, the GCC countries went through would affect people of the Gulf or their belief that the GCC was, has been and will remain their good fate.

He cautioned against misinformation the social media spread about politics of the GCC countries.

“Citizens of the GCC countries should not be dragged into meaningless conversations, which may split ranks and create daunting hurdles in the way to progress and prosperity of the Gulf countries,” said Dr Abdul Malik.