The bloc tapped into various topics, including the ongoing war in Yemen, developments in Lebanon, illegal occupation of Palestine, and the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Gulf countries expressed their readiness to “seriously and effectively” deal with the Iranian nuclear case among several others during the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] summit on Tuesday in Riyadh.
This came in the final communique issued by the GCC Supreme Council at the end of the high-profile meeting in Riyadh, attended by leaders and heads of delegations of the Gulf region.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani led his country’s delegation during the summit—the first to take place since the GCC reconciliation.
Iran’s regional role and its nuclear activity was among the main points on the meetings’ agenda as talks aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] continue to take place in Vienna.
According to Qatar News Agency [QNA], GCC countries stressed the need to participate in any negotiations with Iran including all regional and international discussions related to the nuclear file, given its relevance to the region’s security, safety and stability.
The bloc also condemned Iran’s nuclear advances, including uranium enrichment, which it described as a “failure to adhere to its international commitments”.
The council discussed Iranian-backed Houthi rebels targeting Saudi Arabia, describing it as a violation of international and humanitarian law. It also accused the militants of using the civilian population in Yemen as human shields.
The GCC said that the coalition has the legitimate right to take necessary steps in dealing with terrorist acts conducted by the Houthis, including the prevention of arms smugglings.
The bloc also praised the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces efforts in intercepting missiles launched by the Houthi rebels, which amounted to over 423 ballistic missiles, 834 booby-trapped drones and 98 booby-trapped boats.
In 2014, the Houthis overran all government institutions in Sanaa and gained control of the city, forcing the internationally-recognised government to flee to Aden. The Saudi-led coalition then launched a military intervention to push back the rebels in a bid to reinstate the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
However, six years on, at least 233,000 Yemenis have been killed in the past six years, among them 131,000 who died as a result of malnutrition, lack of healthcare and medicine.
In the latest GCC summit, the council renewed its support of the member states’ efforts in working towards reaching a political solution in Yemen while welcoming the UN Security Council’s decision to sanction Houthi leaders.
It also voiced its concern over Iran’s interference in Yemen’s domestic affairs by arming the Houthi rebels, noting it is violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
While both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have had their own rivalries with Iran, the two Gulf states have appeared to start shifting their foreign policies. Several meetings have been taking place between officials from the two Gulf countries and Tehran.
The Palestinian cause was also on the meetings’ agenda, where GCC countries reiterated their position in supporting the sovereignty of the people of Palestine and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Members of the bloc called on the international community to put an end to the Israeli occupation’s crimes against Palestinians and their forced dispossession from their homes.
They also rejected Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements in illegally occupied Palestinian territories while calling on the international community to pressure the Zionist regime to end its settlement expansion decisions.
Despite the statements made by all members of the GCC, the UAE and Bahrain have maintained ties with Israel since the signing of the Abraham Accords last year. Several Israeli officials have been visiting the region since then.
More recently, newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited the UAE on Monday.
The bloc discussed the ongoing war in Syria and reiterated its support to a political solution in accordance with the principles of Geneva 1, and Security Council Resolution No. 2254.
The Gulf countries called for the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity while respecting its independence and sovereignty.
This came amid a divide in positions in Syria, with countries like Qatar continuing to rule out normalisation with the Bashar Al-Assad regime as the UAE further engages with the Syrian ruler.
Meanwhile, earlier reports confirmed that Syria will be hosting the Arab energy conference in 2024, a move that raised questions over normalisation with the Syrian regime.
The event gathers oil-exporting states in the Middle East including: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Algeria, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria.
The latest summit took place following a diplomatic rift between Lebanon and several Gulf states over comments made by former Minister of Information George Kordahi.
Kordahi had criticised the Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen, describing the war as “futile” and saying it is “about time for it to end.” Saudi Arabia along with Bahrain, the UAE, and Kuwait took joint action in expelling their Lebanon envoys and withdrawing their ambassadors from Beirut.
Qatar maintained its role as a mediator while condemning Kordahi’s comments.
in the joint statement, the GCC expressed its solidarity with the Lebanese people while calling on Lebanon’s parties to assume their responsibility in achieving security and stability.
The bloc also condemned a press conference in Lebanon “for a terrorist group” with Hezbollah’s support, during which officials made remarks against Bahrain.
It also called on the country to take necessary steps to combat corruption and prevent Hezbollah from carrying out “terrorist activities” in the country to destabilise the region’s security and stability.
The US designated Hezbollah, a major political player in Lebanon, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997 and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on 31 October, 2001.
Similarly, the GCC designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation in 2016.
Commenting on the developments in Libya, the council reaffirmed its keenness on supporting the North African country in achieving security and stability.
The bloc also stressed the importance of countering terrorist organisations in the country while supporting the UN’s efforts in reaching a political solution to the situation in Libya.
This came amid the delay in much-anticipated presidential elections in Tripoli, which were scheduled to take place on 24 December this year.
The dispute over the Grand Renaissance Dam [GERD] remains a key issue concerning the Arab region.
Commenting on the dam dispute, Gulf countries reiterated the importance of Sudan and Egypt’s water security, describing it as “an integral part of the Arab national security”.
The GCC also expressed its support for measures taken to resolve the issue concerning Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, including reaching a fair and binding agreement per international standards.
The feud was triggered by Ethiopia’s decision to construct the dam on the Blue Nile, which it shares with Egypt and Sudan, in order to create a large hydroelectric project to supply its people with electricity.
However, Egypt and Sudan have both voiced their concerns over its construction for reasons that have worries each country, including threats to water security and the flow of the dam.
The latest developments in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August have been at the top of international discussions.
The GCC agreed to continue to work in reaching a political solution to the country that suits the interests of all parties and components of the Afghan society. The countries also agreed to provide the crises-hit country with much-needed humanitarian aid.
The bloc also condemned terrorist activities in Kabul, while stressing the importance of protecting the country from such actions and ensuring that Afghanistan is not used to export drugs.
On 2022 World Cup
Qatar is counting down the days to host the long-anticipated FIFA World Cup 2022 after hosting the FIFA Arab Cup this year.
GCC countries expressed their support to Qatar in all aspects that would contribute to the success of next year’s sporting event while praising its “outstanding” organisation of the Arab Cup.
The latest event united all Arab countries for the first time following years of regional crises, especially since the 2017 blockade.
Implementation of Al-Ula accord
During the 41st GCC Summit on 5 January this year, countries in the Gulf and Egypt signed the Al-Ula declaration, marking a new chapter in ties across various fields following a three-year crisis that split the region apart.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed an illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar and falsely accused it of supporting terrorism. Doha has vehemently denied those claims.
The previous GCC summit witnessed the restoration of ties between Qatar and the former blockading quartet.
In the latest summit’s final communique, the council reiterated its commitment to the Al-Ula accord by maintaining regional unity in various fields to protect it from all threats.