Bahrain’s Foreign Minister criticised Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Sunday for not attending a Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia, an absence that suggests a rift between Doha and three Gulf Arab states is unlikely to be resolved soon.
Qatar sent its State Minister for Foreign Affairs to the annual one-day summit that is overshadowed by the economic and diplomatic boycott of Doha since mid-2017 by Riyadh, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt over allegations that Doha supports terrorism. Qatar denies the charges. “Qatar’s Emir should have accepted the fair demands (of the boycotting states) and attended the summit,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in a tweet.
In response, Ahmed bin Saeed AlRumaihi, director of the Information Office at Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, said: “Qatar can make its own decisions and had attended (last year’s) Kuwait summit while the leaders of the boycotting countries did not.”
The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) summit of six member states opened in Riyadh on Sunday at a time when the country is under pressure over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
Saudi TV showed King Salman greeting officials from the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait on their arrival.
Exit from OPEC
Doha last week abruptly announced that it was exiting the oil exporters’ group OPEC after 57 years to focus on gas in an apparent swipe at the bloc’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia. Kuwait’s ties with Riyadh are also strained over control of shared oilfields, further weakening unity of the GCC which was set up in 1980 as a bulwark against larger neighbours Iran and Iraq.
Saudi Arabia has resisted U.S. pressure to restore ties with Doha following Khashoggi’s murder, an act that drew condemnation and scrutiny of Riyadh’s regional foreign policy.