Gulf states and Qatar expected to resolve travel, transport and trade issues within a week

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash says Gulf states are 'turning a page' in their relations

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 10, 2019: Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs speaks at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate. Sunday the 10th of November 2019. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Thursday that “practical measures” could be introduced to restore travel and trade links with Qatar within a week.

He said "we expect to move very quickly on other issues", including the reopening of embassies and consulates.

The UAE and fellow GCC countries Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, along with Egypt, cut ties with Doha in 2017.

“The UAE is behind this deal, positive about re-establishing relations with Qatar within the GCC context. We want to do this faster rather than slower," Dr Gargash said.

A declaration signed during the 41st GCC summit in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday was described by Dr Gargash as a strategic document.

Dr Gargash said there was now a new chapter in relations and he would want to “bring back momentum in the GCC sails”.

That momentum is expected to be largely based on economic collaboration and investment.

He said that despite some differences in approach, “there is an overall agreement on issues of security and stability”.

Dr Gargash said Gulf countries appreciated the role of the US in helping to resolve the situation.

US president-elect Joe Biden and his team were not involved in talks, but Dr Gargash said “a lot of the foreign policy team of the Biden administration know the region very well, we know their views”.

When asked about a Turkish military presence in Qatar, Dr Gargash said: “Our view on the Turkish presence is similar to our view of the Iranian presence in the Arab world … we want to see Turkey as a partner to all and as a country that respects Arab sovereignty and Arab interests in general.

"We want to see a relationship with Turkey on par, of non-interference, on mutually beneficial things.”

He said that was "a collective view within most Arab countries".

Dr Gargash also said the UAE's outlook towards regional crises in general was one of diplomatic solutions.

Turning to the issue of the Iran crisis, he said it was important to reduce tensions.

"We recognise that we have serious issues with Iran, but they need to be dealt with through de-escalation, through diplomacy and politics," he said.

There is no question that rebuilding ties and confidence will not be easy, Dr Gargash said.

“We recognise that any crisis will leave its repercussions and dealing with repercussions will take some time," he said.

"Every crisis has to come to an end. I am glad this one is coming to an end. But any resolution will really depend on transparency and a constructive approach to move forward."

Dr Gargash explained how the UAE mustered a world-leading response to the Covid-19 crisis, being one of the first countries to realise the importance of mass testing, tracking and tracing.

"Covid was a very difficult challenge towards our capacity as a state and I think we are doing very well, in terms of tackling it in the early stages, choosing testing and scientific methods as our guideline", he said.

"We have been one of the more successful countries globally. And I see today in terms of per capita, we are just behind Israel in terms of vaccination. Our intention is to surpass Israel in terms of the percentage of the population vaccinated."

Speaking of the long-term success of the GCC as an international political and trading bloc, Dr Gargash was hopeful it would return to playing a strong role on the world stage.

"The GCC has been one of the most successful Arab regional groupings. So I expect on the diplomatic front it will go back to its vitality," he said.

"On the security and political front, there will be a variance of views, which has been the history of the GCC since 1981. I expect that on the common market front, on the investment front, there will be full winds blowing into that sail."

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