Flags of GCC member states. Kuwait has sought to defuse the crisis without success so far. Kuwait has recently renewed its efforts. Image Credit: File

Cairo: As the third anniversary of a bitter Gulf crisis is just round the corner, a flurry of diplomatic efforts have recently been launched in a fresh attempt to resolve the dispute.

On June 5 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt broke off diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its support for extremist groups.

The boycott has taken a toll on the tiny emirate’s economy. It has also cast a shadow over the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that comprises Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

Over the past three years, Kuwait has sought to defuse the crisis without success so far. Kuwait has recently renewed its efforts.

Last month, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Shaikh Ahmad Nasser Al Sabah visited Saudi Arabia where he conveyed messages from Emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber to the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Although the content of the messages was not disclosed, it is believed to have dealt with the Gulf crisis.

Earlier in May, the Kuwaiti minister delivered a message from Emir Sabah to the Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

That month, Oman’s Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq sent his Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf Bin Alawi to Doha where he conveyed a verbal message to Emir Tamim. At the time, the official Omani news agency said the message tackled ties between the two Gulf countries and key regional issues of mutual interest.

Late last year, signs of a thaw in Gulf tensions loomed after Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain participated in a major football tournament in Qatar.

Lack of seriousness

However, hopes for a breakthrough were soon dashed after the Qatari emir skipped in December an annual GCC summit held in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Instead, he sent the emirate’s Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani to head the Qatari delegation at the gathering. The deputisation was seen as a signal of a lack of seriousness on the part of Doha to heal the rift with its neighbours.

The long-standing rift poses an “unprecedented” challenge to the GCC, the grouping’s Secretary-General Nayef Al Hajraf said on its 39th anniversary.

“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.

“There is a big belief, God willing, that this difference will be handled within the Gulf house,” he added apparently referring to Kuwaiti and Omani efforts.

The Saudi-led bloc has repeatedly announced a set of conditions for mending fences with Doha. The demands include Qatar’s severance of links with militant and terror groups, scaling down ties with Iran and shutting down Al Jazeera TV, seen as a mouthpiece of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar has refused the conditions, saying they violate its sovereignty.