Denunciation of Iran after emergency meetings in Mecca of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Arab League obscured hints of hope for relations between Qatar and four countries blockading it. Saudi King Salman called the summit in response to alleged Iranian complicity in tanker sabotage off Fujairah and a drone attack on the kingdom’s East-West crude oil pipeline.
Initially, invitations omitted Qatar, which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt have isolated since June 2017. Calling themselves the Anti-Terror Quartet, the blockaders accuse Qatar of fomenting terrorism with support for Islamist political groups. Qatar denies the allegations.
The rift hobbles the GCC, formed in 1981 to provide collective defense against then-warring Iraq and Iran. Qatar received its invitation to the summit on May 26 after Iran offered to enter bilateral nonaggression agreements with the six GCC members, a move that threatened to further splinter the group.
Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani thus became the first high-ranking Qatari official to visit Saudi Arabia since the blockade began.
Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf downplayed Qatari attendance, saying, according to Al Jazeera, “It is not new.” Holding position on the conflict, he also said, “Hopefully, there will be a solution [to the Gulf crisis] if Qatar comes back to the right path.”
Salman and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly shook hands with Abdullah.
These are just diplomatic gestures. But they signal agreement to make blockade issues less important than aggression by an antagonistic neighbor squeezed by US sanctions.
More direct was a summit-ending statement calling on Iran to “respect the sovereignty of Arab states and stop interfering in the affairs of countries, which is threatening security and stability in the region.”
Iraq, not a GCC member, dissented. Pointing out that his country shares a 1,400-km border with the Islamic Republic, Iraqi President Barham Salih said, “The security and stability of a neighboring Islamic country is in the interest of Muslim and Arab states.”