Gulf Cooperation Council deals with common challenge

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has just visited the Arab countries in the Gulf, ahead of the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), scheduled to take place this December.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Royal Airport in Sakhir, Bahrain, on December 9. (Photo: SPA/Reuters)
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Royal Airport in Sakhir, Bahrain, on December 9. (Photo: SPA/Reuters)

The visit was an opportunity to promote relations between Saudi Arabia and countries throughout the region and at the same time promote cooperation among GCC members to deal with common challenges, after nearly a year of the Gulf diplomatic crisis resolved through the mediation of some countries.

The stops of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman include Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. Notably, this is Crown Prince Mohammed’s first visit to Qatar since Riyadh and its Arab allies imposed an embargo on Doha in mid-2017, leading to the Gulf diplomatic crisis.

During this crisis, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations and imposed a complete embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorist groups and having close ties with Iran.

Diplomatic tensions have seriously affected the solidarity in the bloc, negatively affecting the economies of the countries in the region. Four Arab countries have blocked land, air and sea routes to Qatar.

The crisis was only just resolved at the GCC summit in January 2021, with Gulf countries signing an agreement towards “solidarity and stability”, mediated by the US and Kuwait. Saudi Arabia has reopened its border with Qatar. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are leading efforts to restore relations with Qatar, with Riyadh and Cairo appointing new ambassadors in Doha.

The fact that Arab countries in the Gulf can resolve disagreements and resume relations with Qatar, stems from the need to unite in the interests of each country and for a stable region to deal with common challenges. During this visit to Oman by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the two sides agreed to open the first direct land route between the two Gulf neighbours.

The 725 km long road connecting the two countries will contribute to facilitating the movement of citizens for the two countries and integrate supply chains. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia will invest 5 billion USD in Oman and companies from the two countries have signed 13 memorandums of understanding on cooperation, worth 30 billion USD.

The Crown Prince’s trip to the Gulf countries coincided with negotiations between Iran and world powers to save the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal which Gulf Arab states criticised for failing to resolve issues related to Tehran’s missile programme. Gulf countries have always viewed Iran as a long-time “rival” and see Tehran's nuclear programme as a “threat” to regional security.

In the context that nuclear negotiations between major powers with Iran have not met the wishes of Arab Gulf states, Saudi Arabia has conducted direct negotiations with Iran. The goal is to contain the escalation of tensions in the region, one of the factors slowing down the economic growth of the GCC countries.

The upcoming GCC summit will be the first high-level meeting of the bloc’s countries since the end of disputes between some members with Qatar.

This is an opportunity for the GCC to re-evaluate the diplomatic results that have actively contributed to the restoration of the bloc’s unity, and at the same time take measures towards the full cooperation of its members, in order to deal with a common challenge, for the stability and development of Arab nations in the Gulf.

Translated by NDO