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The New Arab

Qatar still a 'big believer' in GCC, sees 'small progress' in resolving Gulf dispute

Several regional powers cut ties with Qatar in 2017 [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 December, 2019

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Qatar's prime minister recently visited Saudi Arabia to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) annual meeting.
There has been "small progress" in reconciliation efforts between Qatar and some of its neighbours, the Gulf state's foreign minister said on Saturday.

The comment came just days after Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani jetted off to the Saudi capital Riyadh for this year's Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting amid growing hopes of an end to the two-year blockade.

The premier is the highest representation sent since 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar.

The four nations accused Doha of backing radical Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and seeking closer ties with Saudi arch rival Tehran - allegations Qatar vehemently denies.

Speaking at the Doha Foreum in Qatar, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Reuters there had been "small progress, just a little progress" in meetings between regional leaders.

Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi added that Qatar remains a "big believer of the GCC".

Negotiations to end the impasse are expected to continue, analysts say.

While Saudi Arabia appears to be taking a more conciliatory approach, some of the other blockading partners are not eager to step back. 

"Ending the Gulf rift is an incremental process of engagement and dialogue rather than something resolvable at a single summit meeting alone," Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute in the United States, told AFP earlier this week.

Samuel Ramani, a doctoral researcher at Oxford University, added: "Saudi Arabia's normalisation with Qatar is likely to occur without major concessions from Doha. 

"It is possible that Qatar could scale back its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is certainly not planning on reducing its diplomatic ties with Turkey and Iran as trust between Doha and other GCC countries has been severely damaged."

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