Gulf nations vow unity at historic GCC Summit

Al Ula - 'There is a desperate need today to unite our efforts to promote our region and to confront challenges'



By KT Report

Published: Wed 6 Jan 2021, 12:08 AM

Last updated: Wed 6 Jan 2021, 6:50 AM

Full ties have been restored between Qatar and the Gulf nations, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

“What happened today is the turning of the page on all points of difference and a full return of diplomatic relations,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan told a Press conference at the conclusion of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi Arabia.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who led the UAE’s delegation, said the summit had brought unity to the region. “The changes and challenges surrounding us require strength, cohesion and real Gulf cooperation,” he tweeted.

Leaders of the six-member GCC signed two documents on Tuesday, the Al Ula Declaration, named after the Saudi city where this year’s regional summit was held, and a final communique.

Saudi Arabia had led a coalition of countries in the Gulf and beyond to cut ties and transport links with Qatar in June 2017, after it was seen to be backing radical groups.

Those countries, along with Oman and Kuwait which have mediated between the two sides, signed the rapprochement deal, after Riyadh re-opened its land, sea and air borders to Doha.

“There is a desperate need today to unite our efforts to promote our region and to confront challenges that surround us, especially the threats posed by the Iranian regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme and its plans for sabotage and destruction,” said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The Al Ula agreement signed at this blessed summit confirms Gulf, Arab and Islamic unity and stability” the Crown Prince added.

The Al Ula Declaration “affirms our Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability,”, he told the meeting, in comments echoed by other leaders.

But the warm welcome Prince Mohammed extended to Qatar’s Emir His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, with the pair embracing at the airport and then chatting animatedly, indicates a significant breakthrough.

Sheikh Tamim, visiting Saudi for the first time since the crisis began, was taken with the other leaders through Al Ula’s dramatic Martian landscape to the shimmering Maraya Concert Hall, a mirrored structure situated in a nearby valley.

Later, Saudi state media tweeted a photo of the Saudi Crown Princeyoung Saudi de facto leader behind the wheel of his sports utility vehicle, taking Sheikh Tamim on a tour of the area.

Full ties 
with Qatar restored

“These are first steps or a first phase of reconciliation that will be followed by other steps. Some may belittle that progress, but resuming open direct communication and avoiding verbal attacks is progress,” said Kuwait University assistant professor Bader Al Saif.

“The other states... will follow suit and pursue similar reconciliatory steps.”

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser who shuttled around the region to seek a deal, attended the signing ceremony at Al Ula.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Aal -Sabah announced on state television on Monday that an agreement had been struck to open all the borders between Saudi and Qatar with immediate effect.

Drivers south of Doha on the usually calm Salwa highway towards the Saudi border at Abu Samra sounded their horns and waved their arms from their car windows in the wake of the announcement, an AFP correspondent reported.

“We will see all Saudis here, also all Qataris will visit Saudi Arabia, and we will be friends as we were before and better,” said Hisham Al Hashmi, a Qatari with an Emirati mother, who wore a traditional thobe and winter headdress.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said the summit had brought unity to the region.

“The changes and challenges surrounding us require strength, cohesion and real Gulf cooperation,” he tweeted.

Saudi state media said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met separately with Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, after the pair publicly embraced at the airport.

“During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and ways of consolidating the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) joint action,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Photo: SPA/Twitter
Photo: SPA/Twitter

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