RIYADH – With the absence of the head of the Qatari state, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Tuesday set their sights on achieving economic and financial integration by 2025, but it did not meet expectations of reconciliation between Qatar and its regional rivals.
The meeting in the Saudi capital was marked by the absence of Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, who was invited by Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz to take part in the summit, which sparked hopes of reconciliation.
Instead, Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani chaired his country’s delegation in the summit, where he was received by the king.
Saudi state-run TV underlined the “fraternal smiling talks” with which the king received the Qatari prime minister.
The invitation the king extended to the Emir of Qatar was deemed to be a positive sign of a possible rapprochement between Qatar and its regional rivals Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrein and Egypt.
The four countries imposed a commercial and diplomatic blockade on Qatar in 2017 over accusation of supporting terrorism, claims that the latter refused.
The level of representation from Qatar was higher than the previous summit, in which Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Soltan bin Saad Al Muraikhi led Doha’s delegation.
Although neither the GCC leaders nor the final communique mentioned the crisis with Qatar, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan expressed the will to achieve rapprochement.
The four countries “continue to back efforts by Emir of the State of Kuwait (Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah) and we prefer that this thing remain away from media,” he said during a joint press conference with GCC’s Secretary-General Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani.
“The differences between the council countries do not diminish its strength and cohesion,” he added.
Beyond the Emir’s absence, they agreed on sealing the economic and financial integration by 2025.
The final communique, read by Al Zayani, stated the bloc’s countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait and Oman, should approve the necessary legislation to achieve economic integration, which includes monetary and customs unity.
Al Zayani also stressed the importance of “strengthening cooperation mechanisms and achieving military integration to ensure the security of member countries.”
“Any aggression against any council country is an aggression against all GCC members,” al-Zayani added.
Shortly before the final communique, bin Abdul-Aziz called on the Gulf countries to join efforts to face the “aggressions” of Iran.
“Today the region is going through circumstances and challenges that require joining forces to face them, as the Iranian regime continues its aggressions to undermine security, stability and support for terrorism,” the Saudi King said in the opening speech.
The king underscored the need of working with the international community to “seriously treat the nuclear program, the development of ballistic missiles and ensure energy sources and the safety of the maritime passageway.”