GCC Summit: what to expect from the 41st meeting on January 5

Dating back to 1981, the annual summit has led to decisions that have helped the Gulf region develop and prosper

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan with the Rulers of the GCC countries during the first Summit in Abu Dhabi, 1981 
National Archives images supplied by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs to mark the 50th anniverary of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan becaming the Ruler of Abu Dhabi. *** Local Caption ***  59.jpg
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Regional, social, political and economic co-operation are on the agenda for the Gulf Cooperation Council when they meet on January 5. But, the main topic is expected to be ways to resolve the Qatar crisis and regional responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said recently that a solution to the 3-year-old dispute with Doha was within reach after Kuwait and the US announced progress in talks. The UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have all backed the initiative.

The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said that it was crucial to find ways to ensure Qatar’s compliance with terms of any deal if one is reached.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar in 2017 accusing them of sponsoring terror groups and intervening in the internal affairs of its neighbours. Doha denies the allegations.

In a stark difference for a year that has seen summits and meetings postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic, officials plan to meet in person in Riyadh.

On Tuesday evening, GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef Falah Al Hajraf presented the official invite to the 41st summit from Saudi Arabia to Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim. Dr Al Hajraf discussed the GCC’s work and achievements in the meeting. It is customary for the GCC secretary general to personally deliver the invites to heads of member states ahead of a summit. He delivered a number of formal invitations to GCC leaders last week.

The summit comes after Foreign Ministers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait met via video link on December 27, while Qatar was represented by its Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman as a precursor.

Discussions focused on economic, social and environmental topics as well as “other areas of co-operation between member states”, Oman News Agency said.

The GCC’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is also expected to be on the agenda as borders between the neighbouring states start to open up after months of closures due to the pandemic.

What is the GCC summit?

In 1981 the GCC was established by charter.

It is made up of six member states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar – and headquartered in Riyadh.

One of the council’s main objectives is to “endeavour to complement efforts already begun in all essential areas”.

The GCC’s Supreme Council is made up of the heads of the member states and it meets annually, although “extraordinary sessions” can be held upon request.

Its inaugural meeting was held on May 25-26, 1981, hosted by Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE, in Abu Dhabi.

Notable decisions

The Kuwait-based Gulf Investment Corporation was created in 1983 to oversee the removal of trade, customs and travel barriers between member states.

In 1986, citizens of any of the six states were granted the right to do business right across the GCC, with access to regional loans and industrial development funds also allowed.

The hosting of a summit in 1991 in Kuwait following the Gulf War with Iraq symbolised solidarity for their Gulf neighbour following the invasion and defeat of former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein.

In 2014’s summit in Doha, an Interpol-style joint police and naval force was announced. GCCPOL, as it was named, is based in the UAE and launched its first joint operation in 2019 after a number of workshops where members exchanged expertise.