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GCC 'looks forward to normal relations' soon: Kuwait FM

The GCC has been locked in a dispute since 2017 [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 December, 2020

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The GCC is looking forward to resuming normal relations between member states in the near future, Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah said on Tuesday.
All members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be happy to see reconciliation in the region soon, Kuwait's prime minister said on Tuesday.

The GCC states look forward to the "return of normal relations in the near future", Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah said according to a tweet by Al Jazeera.

The comments come as countries involved in the three-year long Gulf dispute announced promising movements to end the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed an illegal land, air and sea blockade on Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar has consistently and staunchly denied the charges.

The blockading quartet originally presented Qatar with a list of 13 demands, including shutting down Al Jazeera and ending ties with rivals Turkey and Iran.

Doha flatly turned down the demands and three-years on, after a bitter standoff, the Saudi-led bloc is seemingly willing to substantially water down their demands in the final deal, sources familiar with the negotiations say.

A figure close to the Saudi government indicated the kingdom was ready to make concessions by reopening its airspace to Qatari aircraft - saving them from fuel-guzzling detours - if Doha stops funding its political opponents and restrains its media.

"Saudi is pushing (for) it - and Saudi holds the key card which is its airspace for Qatar," the source told AFP.

Last week, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates officially threw their support behind efforts to heal the rift.

But the Saudi source said the UAE, a staunch rival of Qatar, had been resistant, adding: "Emirati anger cannot be allowed to keep this fire burning... (It's) time to put this issue to bed."

'Limited scope'

Another Gulf-based source close to the negotiations told AFP that the Saudi-driven process could result in a peace of sorts but not fully resolve the underlying issues.

The final deal will likely be a joint document setting out the terms, they said, possibly a reformatted version of the 2014 Riyadh agreement between Qatar and Gulf states - a secret pact believed to promote non-interference in each other's affairs.

According to a Western diplomat in the Gulf, mediators from Kuwait are pushing to get the three main leaders on board - Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar's ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

"Those three men will have to agree," the diplomat told AFP, adding that despite the Emirates' resistance, Abu Dhabi's leader was "closely involved" in the process.

Read more: UAE 'appreciates Kuwait, US efforts' in resolving Gulf crisis

"We're looking at a possible interim solution within a few weeks... I don't think anyone expects a complete resolution. Everyone will be looking at how warmly the communique is worded."

Doha-based diplomats cited a senior Qatari official as saying that the final deal had been "agreed in principle" but was "limited in scope".

The official, they said, suggested Saudi Arabia was unwilling to announce the deal before the end of Trump's term, possibly to strike a positive tone with Biden who has pledged a tough stance towards Riyadh over its human rights failings.

The US is keen to lift the air embargo which has prompted Qatar to use Iran's airspace, contributing to the approximately $133 million that Iranian media says Tehran receives annually for overflights, undermining US efforts to squeeze it economically.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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