The United States and Kuwait are working towards ending a dispute that prompted Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar in June 2017. However, reaching a final deal will likely take a long time.
Moves towards resolving the dispute, which prompted Saudi Arabia and its allies to sever diplomatic, trade and travel links with Qatar, multiplied in recent weeks following Riyadh’s announcement earlier this month that a final solution is within reach.
The other countries involved in the dispute –the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — were more reserved about the mediation efforts.
Kuwait, and particularly the US, observers say, are hoping to unite the Arab Gulf states in the face of Iran’s threat to regional and international stability.
Four sources familiar with the negotiations previously said they expected a declaration to be issued on the issue in conjunction with the summit, which usually takes place in December.
These sources hoped that the Qatari emir, who has not gathered with leaders of the boycotting countries since 2017, would attend the summit.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that an agreement that ministers will finalise before the summit may lead to a set of principles for future negotiations or produce more practical moves, including the reopening of the countries’ airspace to Qatar as a gesture of goodwill.
“Things are moving quickly, but some issues are still pending,” the source added. The negotiations to reach a final solution will take months and months, he said.
Another source close to the negotiations said that when Kuwait announced progress, there were promises that all leaders would participate in the summit, but talks about re-opening the airspace, a step Washington has been pushing for, stalled.
Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said in previous statements that Kuwait has “a conviction that the atmosphere is positive and comfortable. There will be contacts at all levels to formulate a quick end to this row that has hit the member countries of the GCC.”
A foreign diplomat in the region, who also expected all Gulf countries to be represented in the next GCC summit, said,
“An initial agreement may be followed by a new stalemate,” explaining that the Saudis seem more enthusiastic about the move than their allies and that Doha is open to waiting for a comprehensive agreement, especially as US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take a more assertive stance towards Riyadh.
He added that Saudi Arabia, the most powerful state in the Gulf region, would likely convince reluctant allies to join the mediation effort.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, in addition to Egypt, accuse Qatar of supporting extremism through Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Doha denies the accusations and says the boycott aims to undermine its sovereignty.
The UAE and Qatar differ over Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood, which are key issues for Cairo as well.
Speaking on the dispute, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan told a news conference this week that if there are countries that still support terrorism and extremism in the region, this will be a problem.
The four countries have presented Qatar with a list of 13 demands to restore relations. These demands include shutting down Al Jazeera TV channel, closing a Turkish base, severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading relations with Iran.
In response, Qatar says any solution must be based on mutual respect, including when it comes to foreign policy.
A senior Omani diplomat said that some issues, such as those related to Turkey, would require more time.
However, he noted that major changes have taken place after a rare phone call between Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month.
“I see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
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