The prospect of ending the eight months of tense relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries is a positive outcome for the region. As The National reports, the GCC agreed on the return of Emirati, Saudi and Bahraini envoys to Qatar during an emergency meeting in Riyadh on Sunday. A joint statement issued after the meeting said that such a step promises to open "a new page that will present a strong base, especially in light of the sensitive circumstances the region is undergoing".
This new page will be an advantage for the entire Middle East. The GCC needs to be united when it comes to the many challenges facing the region, not only in name but also in attitudes and goals. Prolonging divisions between council members and enforcing an us-versus-them mentality can only weaken cooperation during critical times and places the entire region in greater danger.
One critical issue that requires full collaboration is the fight against extremist groups threatening the security and stability of the region. The military cooperation between the UAE, Saudi, Bahrain and Qatar in the US-led coalition to fight ISIL is one example of the positive contributions GCC countries can collectively make. Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, said recently that the only way regional countries can confront extremism is to act as a team.
Syria will also benefit from a united GCC after the current crisis is eventually replaced by peace. While there is no imminent prospect of this, when calm does return the GCC is the only alliance with both the will and the financial resources to rebuild the country in a way that benefits all its citizens. At such a critical period, the GCC countries combined will be able to boost its recovery. This is far less likely to happen without cooperation among the GCC countries.
The envoys’ return does not mean the end of tensions – but after the bitterness we have seen over the past eight months, a full rapprochement is understandably likely to take some time. The significance of Sunday’s summit lies in the fact that the states of the Gulf agree on the seriousness of the situation facing them on their doorstep and are prepared to put differences aside to confront the common threat.