Manama: Strategic military cooperation among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states will top next week’s GCC summit, Bahrain’s foreign minister has said.
“There will be several familiar issues to be discussed at the summit, but the military cooperation will be the most important. Several decisions will be made,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said in an interview with Al Sharq Al Awsat.
The GCC countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates- will hold their annual summit on Sunday in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
Diplomatic sources in Kuwait said that the meeting of the GCC foreign ministers that traditionally precedes the summit by one day and prepares the draft communique would not be held this time.
“There are no complex issues for the summit, and the GCC countries discuss many issues at the GCC General Secretariat [in Riyadh]. When they meet, the leaders will discuss many issues that may not be on the agenda. They are keen to discuss current topics if there is a need to discuss them. The summit will be one day and time is limited,” Shaikh Khalid said.
The minister said that the representation level of Qatar, a country with currently no diplomatic relations with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was not significant.
“The Qatari representation is of no concern to us. What we have done is a reaction to what Qatar had done and embraced towards us. Does Qatar belong to the GCC? Qatar is a member of the GCC, but it uses foreign forces instead of forces in which it is a stakeholder, such as the Peninsula Shield. The foreign forces based in Qatar are the biggest threat posed by Doha to the GCC member states,” he said.
On June 5 last year, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE severed their diplomatic, trade and travel relations with Qatar after they accused of funding terrorism and supporting extremists. They issued a list of 13 demands and five principles, but Qatar denied the charges and rejected the demands. Upon a request from Qatar, Turkey dispatched troops to the peninsular country.
Shaikh Khalid criticised the “obvious hostile policy by Qatar towards GCC member states.”
“The most recent and example is Qatar’s blatant hostility towards Saudi Arabia, especially the policy of insulting Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. After all this, does Qatar really belong to the GCC? By the way, Qatar is the least committed to the GCC agreements, so we will not waste our time on wishes and dreams. Qatar has to fix its attitudes and approaches. The fact is Qatar will not change its approach. We have wishes that we hope will be realised,” the minister told the London-based daily.
Shaikh Khalid dismissed speculations that the presence of the six GCC countries at the summit in Riyadh indicated a genuine drive to freeze or contain the dispute between Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE with Qatar.
“This is what people are expecting, but I do not see any freeze on the dispute with Qatar. The Emir of Kuwait has sincerely sought to protect the way forward of the GCC, and this reflects the efforts exerted by Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad. However, have we achieved anything? The simple answer is that we have not. Therefore, the presence or absence of Qatar at the summit make no difference, regardless of the person who will represent the country. The issue is much deeper than nose kissing (signs of forgiveness and renewed friendship). Qatar’s stalling and escalation has made finding a solution much more difficult.”
Shaikh Khalid added that since the beginning of the crisis, Qatar has been distancing itself from the GCC countries and conspiring against them.
“We have tried talks with tem more than once, and it is just procrastination and stalling. The crisis with Qatar has reached a very distant point that we have not seen before, and I do not know how Qatar will make its way back. It has committed itself to the enemies of the region, such as Iran, and has distanced itself from the GCC countries. Such acts do not indicate that Qatar will remain in the GCC. We are realistic in dealing with this issue and we do not waste more time than has already been lost.”