The Arab Gulf States are moving closer together again. After a year they signed a new agreement. Common opponent: Iran. The states had only buried their longstanding conflict the day before.
Against the background of their internal conflict with Qatar, the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have signed an agreement for “solidarity and stability” in the region. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman thanked the United States and Kuwait for mediating at a summit meeting in Al-Ula in the northwest of his country on Tuesday. After years of conflict, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, traveled to Saudi Arabia for the first time.
“We urgently need to combine our efforts to develop the council and meet the challenges around us,” said Crown Prince Mohammed, who chaired the council meeting, in a televised address. “These include, in particular, threats from the Iranian regime’s nuclear program and the ballistic missile program.” The Crown Prince also spoke of the “subversive, destructive projects” of Tehran and its allies.
From 2017, Saudi Arabia led a coalition with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which Qatar sanctioned with a comprehensive embargo on allegations of being too close to Iran and radical Islamic groups. The Doha government has always denied the allegations.
Saudi Arabia opens borders and air space
It was the first time in years that the Emir of Qatar took part in a summit meeting of the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Saudi Arabia paved the way for relaxation on Monday when the kingdom announced that it would reopen its borders and airspace to Qatar.
On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) closed the borders with the peninsula of Qatar and imposed a blockade. Egypt followed suit. The states had accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and having too close ties with Shiite Iran. The emirate had rejected the allegations. It was one of the GCC’s worst crises since it was founded in 1981.
Change of government in the USA is a decisive factor
The US government had increased its pressure on the countries involved to resolve their conflict. She argues that unity of the Arab states is necessary to isolate Iran. According to a US government official, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and Middle East advisor to US President Donald Trump, wanted to travel to Al-Ula.
According to experts, the imminent change of government in the USA is a decisive factor in reconciliation. Saudi Arabia and its allies fear that the US will withdraw from the region under President-elect Joe Biden – similar to what it did under Barack Obama. The GCC states are therefore more dependent on themselves and partners in the region for their security, says Dania Thafer, director of the Gulf International Forum in Washington. This also applies to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival.