RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Qatar’s emir skipped a summit in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, December 9 with fellow Arab Gulf leaders whose boycott of the small but energy-flush neighbor has sparked a major regional diplomatic row.
Riyadh is hosting the annual gathering as crises rumble on over the 18-month-old dispute with Doha, the war in Yemen, and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.
The regional powerhouse had invited Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to attend the 6-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) talks, but the foreign ministry in Doha said he would not go.
Instead Qatar was represented by the minister of state for foreign affairs, Sultan al-Muraikhi, it said.
Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, severed diplomatic ties with Doha in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and fostering close ties with their regional rival Iran.
Doha, which announced this month it was quitting the Saudi-dominated OPEC oil cartel, denies the allegations, but the dispute has dragged on.
Speaking at the start of the summit, Saudi King Salman accused Iran of “continuing to interfere in the affairs of the countries in the region.”
He stressed the importance of the GCC and the need to “defend, in collaboration with our partners, security and stability in the Gulf.”
Kuwait, which along with fellow GCC member Oman has stayed out of the worst political fallout from the Qatar row, has tried unsuccessfully to mediate a solution to the dispute.
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah called for “an end to media campaigns that have sowed discord (among the peoples of the region) to pave the way for reconciliation”.
The GCC was formed in 1981 at the height of the Iraq-Iran war and two years after the Islamic revolution in Tehran sparked concern in Sunni-led Gulf states, many of which have sizable Shiite populations, including in Bahrain.
GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani has said the summit would review ties with Iran after the US reimposed an oil embargo and other sanctions on Tehran following Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. – Rappler.com