Gulf foreign ministers hold online meeting before GCC summit

Ministers discussed economic, social and environmental topics, among other areas of co-operation

FILE PHOTO: Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) arrive, ahead of an annual leaders summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 9, 2019. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo

Gulf Arab foreign ministers held an online meeting on Sunday, hosted by Bahrain, before the annual Gulf Co-operation Council summit.

The summit, on January 5, will discuss steps towards ending the diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar, which began in 2017.

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

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, which the GCC states and Egypt accused of supporting extremist groups and interfering in its neighbours’ internal affairs.

Saudi Arabia has pushed for a resolution of the dispute, and Bahrain said in a statement at the foreign ministers’ online meeting that this would prepare the ground for the summit next week.

Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, expressed hope of reconciliation, standing behind Saudi Arabia’s efforts.

“From Riyadh, the capital city of the Gulf’s decision-making, we, God willing, are taking steps to enhance the intra-Gulf dialogue towards the future,” he wrote on Twitter this month.

Reuters' sources said they expect an agreement to be reached by the summit, which could result in a set of principles for negotiations, or a more concrete move involving reopening airspace to Qatar.

But Qatar has told Kuwait and the US, the two mediators in the dispute, that any resolution should be based on mutual respect of foreign policy, among other matters.

Doha had been given 13 demands, including the closure of Al Jazeera television and a Turkish military base, cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood and cooling ties with Tehran.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said this month that a resolution to the dispute with Qatar seemed within reach after Kuwait announced progress towards ending the row.