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The New Arab

Qatar says GCC 'needs teeth' to survive regional challenges

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani spoke at the Doha Forum [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 December, 2018

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Qatar says it remains committed to the GCC, despite a blockade by some members of the Gulf bloc.

Qatar has said that reforms or a fundamental reshaping of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is essential to ensure regional cooperation, as members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE continue their blockade on Doha.

"The regional alliance has been undermined by the crisis," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said on Saturday at the Doha Forum.

"Therefore the alliance that existed needs to be reshaped and redesigned to ensure future stability and security of the region."

"[The blockade] was based on lies, it was based on crimes... it was based on creating propaganda to create fear among the people."

He added that the GCC "needs teeth" to prevent further regional crises, such as the current impasse between Gulf states, and a fundamental remaking.

"They have mechanisms in place and never trigger them (to hold people accountable) because some countries believe they are non-binding, so we need to make sure all the rules we are submitting to are binding to everyone in this region," said al-Thani at the annual Doha Forum.

"We believe that we are more relevant as a bloc" for the West than as separate countries, he added, according to Reuters.

Qatar has been under a blockade by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt since June 2017, when the bloc accused Doha of sponsoring terrorist groups, a charge the Gulf state strongly denies.

The Saudi-led party then submitted a list of demands to Qatar, including closing media outlets - including The New Arab - end ties with Iran, and close a Turkish military base in the emirate.

Although there appears to have been some outreach from the blockading parties following an invitation to Qatar's emir to attend last week's GCC talks in Riyadh, Doha insists there must be major changes in the relationship to prevent further blockades in the future.

Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani also addressed the crisis at the forum in Doha.

"In the Gulf crisis our position remains unchanged - lifting the blockade and settling the differences via dialogue," he said.

Bahrain has rebuffed efforts by the EU to mediate an end to the crisis.

"It is not our crisis, it is Qatar's crisis. So there is no need for a mediator to solve it, what it needs is for a wise person from its (Qatar's) people," Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa tweeted.

Qatar has said it hopes Kuwait - which does not support the blockade - could play a role in helping mediate the crisis.

Saudi Arabia is also said to be under pressure from some elements in the US to end the blockade, following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

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