EU warns GCC may fall apart amid Qatar dispute
The European Union (EU) has warned that the Arab regional grouping of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) might collapse as a result of the current diplomatic dispute among its member states.
GCC members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have severed diplomatic ties and cut all land, sea, and air routes with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region.
Other members, Oman and Kuwait, have remained neutral. Kuwait City is also engaging in mediation efforts. And the only other GCC member is Qatar itself, which has rejected the accusations against it and has ruled out submitting to the will of the boycotting countries.
Speaking on Monday, EU foreign policy director Federica Mogherini said the European bloc was “worried” that the GCC “might come disunited out of these tensions.”
Earlier, a Qatari deputy prime minister had also said the GCC was in its dying stages. Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said Qatar had learned not to put too much trust in the countries that have laid the siege on it.
Mogherini also said that the EU backed the mediation efforts being carried out by Kuwait.
“As you know we support the mediation efforts of the Emir [Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah] of Kuwait with all our means,” she said, adding, “We hope and we believe that the tensions can be resolved through the Kuwaiti mediation.”
‘Qatar issues own ultimatum’
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Middle East News Agency (MENA) has alleged that Qatar has given the GCC three days to reconsider its stance or it would leave the body.
MENA said Qatar presented the demands in a letter by Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
In the letter, he said the boycotting countries had to lift the sanctions within the period and compensate the Qatari government and people for the political and economic damage they have subjected them to, the report added.
Neither Doha nor the GCC have verified the report, however.
Lifting the lid of a 2013 dispute?
Also on Monday, the countries opposing Qatar sought to ratchet up pressure on Doha by saying that the publication of a previously-secret accord between Riyadh and Doha showed that Qatar had broken a promise not to meddle in the affairs of fellow-Persian Gulf countries.
The 2013 accord was reportedly signed to settle a dispute between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors. The bloc says Qatar agreed through the accord not to meddle in its neighbors’ politics.
The text of the reported deal was first published by CNN earlier on Monday.
In a joint statement, the bloc said the publication of the accord “confirms beyond any doubt Qatar’s failure to meet its commitments and its full violation of its pledges.”
Qatar responded by saying that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had violated the spirit of the agreement and had engaged in an “unwarranted and unprecedented attack on Qatar’s sovereignty.”
Tillerson meets Kuwaiti emir
Also on Monday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a three-leg trip to Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for talks apparently focusing on the crisis.
Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera cited US officials as saying Tillerson did not expect an immediate breakthrough and was rather seeking “to explore possibilities for sparking negotiations.”
On June 22, the countries boycotting Qatar issued a 13-point list of demands for Doha to meet in order for the relations to be restored. Among them was that Qatar close a Turkish military base, limit its ties with Iran, and “compensate” the sanctioning countries for unspecified harm.
‘No clean hands’
Tillerson’s adviser R.C. Hammond, meanwhile, said the package was not viable but said there were individual items on the list “that could work.”
Hammond would not elaborate on which demands Qatar could meet but said concessions from others would be required.
“This is a two-way street,” he said of the dispute among parties all of whom have been accused of supporting “extremism” in one form or another. “There are no clean hands.”
Call for a swift resolution
Also visiting Kuwait was British National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill. The official, together with Tillerson and the Kuwaiti emir, used the opportunity to issue a joint statement urging all parties “to quickly contain the current crisis and resolve it at the earliest through dialog,” the official Kuwait News Agency reported.