12/13/2017
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Gulf ministers hold key talks before GCC summit


Tuesday December 5, 2017

Foreign ministers of six Gulf countries have met in Kuwait in one of the highest official encounters since a Saudi Arabia-led quartet of Arab countries severed relations with Qatar.

Monday's gathering came a day before a key summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional Arab alliance currently facing its worst diplomatic crisis because of the row over Qatar.

Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled al-Hamad Al Sabah, Kuwait's foreign minister, while opening the preliminary meeting, said the GCC's unity and solidarity remain intact despite "various challenges and trials", the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said.

KUNA said Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the GCC secretary-general, called for the maintenance of strategic ties between the member states while describing the ministerial meeting as one of the successes of the summit.

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, previously said he hopes the GCC summit would provide a blueprint for ending the regional dispute.

The agenda of this year's summit has not been made public, but the crisis is expected to feature at the forefront of discussions.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE cut ties with Qatar on June 5 after accusing it of supporting "terrorism". Qatar has strongly denied the allegation.

Kuwait, the main mediator in the standoff, sent out invitations to all GCC member states last week. However, it is not clear if all heads of state will attend the two-day summit.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah are the only heads of state confirmed to attend.

'Difficult situation'

Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Kuwait City, said the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain find themselves in a "difficult situation".

"On one hand, if they attend, it'll be taken as a sign of weakness by their people after months of accusing Qatar of 'terrorism', and saying that Qatar should be ostracised," he said.

"However, if they don't attend, they will be accused of sowing disunity among the GCC and standing in the way of Kuwait's efforts to bring everyone to the table."

In October, Sheikh Al Sabah warned of the potential collapse of the GCC if the crisis continued.

The last GCC summit was held in Bahrain in 2016.

The GCC was established in 1981 for closer economic, trade and security partnerships on the Arabian Peninsula.
 



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