GCC rift between Qatar and other members grows wider

Alarm expressed by media shortly before Jeddah meeting

28 August, 17:19

    Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, looks on during the opening of the Arab  League summit in Doha, Qatar, 26 March 2013. Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, looks on during the opening of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, 26 March 2013.

    (by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) - DUBAI, AUGUST 28 - An unprecedented diplomatic spat between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain on the other seems to be worsening two days ahead of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting of foreign ministers that was to have asserted the success of the Riyadh Agreement.

    The report that Saudi Arabia is drawing up and will present on August 30 at the Jeddah summit ''could result in the escalation of the situation'', a Saudi source recently told the Al-Rai daily of Kuwait, the emirate trying to reconcile the two sides in recent months.

    ''The agreements seem to have remained a dead letter, and Riyadh has prepared a report that included its observations about what Doha did not implement,'' a Saudi official told the Kuwaiti daily. ''The Saudi observations are numerous.'' The diplomatic row among the GCC members erupted last year amid accusations that Doha had harmed Gulf interests through ''interfering'' in the domestic politics of other countries and by being too soft on extremist groups and religious figures that were extremely critical of the political choices of the other three. An initial agreement for Qatar to pursue policies closer to those of other countries in the GCC was signed in November. Due to a lack of progress, in March Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain pulled their ambassadors out of Doha. The move was unprecedented both in terms of the seriousness of it and the negative publicity resulting for the regional bloc since its foundation in 1981. A new accord achieved the following month resulted in the first steps towards Qatar following through on its pledges to keep a tighter rein on its Al-Jazeera satellite broadcaster and to marginalize the dissidents speaking against neighboring countries from its territory. The rift between the two sides was also played out against the backdrop of Egypt, due to Qatar's support for President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood he belonged to, as well as other groups that have been outlawed by the other three countries, including jihadist forces operating in the Syrian conflict. Doha has been open about its role in the release of the US journalist Peter Theo Curtis in recent days after he was held hostage for 22 months by the local Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria Jabhat Al-Nusra. The release came shortly after another US journalist taken hostage in Syria, James Foley, had been decapitated by the extremist Islamic State (IS/ISIS) group. Reports and statements made on the results of mediation attempts between the GCC members have been conflicting. The statements made by the Saudi sources - and Qatar's reported refusal to sign the report saying it had complied with the terms of the agreement - are clear signs of rekindled tension. However, a Saudi delegation visited Qatar for a few hours on Wednesday. No details of what was said have been released.

    (ANSAmed).

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