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Monday, October 18, 2021

Bahrain ends weeks-long silence, welcomes dialogue to end GCC rift


According to Manama’s foreign minister, GCC countries will hold a virtual preparatory session on December 27 ahead of the January summit.

Bahrain has called for an end to the GCC crisis after weeks of silence despite current reconciliation talks, the Bahraini News Agency [BNA] reported on Wednesday.

Manama’s Supreme Defence Council, led by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, called for a need “to end regional conflicts and disputes by peaceful means,” the state news agency said.

The Gulf country’s statement comes weeks after all countries involved in the three-year-long rift – Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt – welcomed Kuwait’s mediating efforts in the crisis and expressed their hope in reaching a resolution that would end the blockade on Qatar.

All GCC members will be meeting on December 27 for a virtual preparatory session ahead of the 41st GCC Summit, scheduled on January 5th in Riyadh.

Commenting on the December meeting, Bahraini Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani said that his country looks forward to a successful session “that leads to strengthening the Gulf dialogue in order to achieve the desired future goals”.

Read also: GCC reconciliation talks ‘only between Qatar and Saudi Arabia’

Despite Bahrain’s weeks-long silence, tensions have simmered between Manama and Doha over breaches that saw its boats enter Qatari waters.

Analysts believe this was an attempt by Manama to place hurdles in the path to reconciliation. However, Bahrain has been showing, what experts described as, a “surprising” change in its position in the GCC crisis.

Earlier this week, and after a month of escalations along the water borders, reports suggested Manama has been pushing for negotiations with Doha to reach a maritime agreement.

Analysts question Bahrain’s ‘especially strange’ push for talks with Qatar over shared waters

According to Kuwaiti media, the potential agreement would entail sharing territorial waters that would allow fishermen from both countries to access their territorial waters “in a way that would benefit the citizens of the two countries and enhance joint Gulf cooperation”.

Furthermore, Bahraini officials emphasised the need to “restore” decades-old conditions for the maritime borders.

Also on Wednesday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani confirmed that Doha has been negotiating with Saudi Arabia only as it “represents the countries involved in the dispute”.

“All Gulf nations will emerge victorious from the crisis if we are able to rebuild confidence within the Cooperation Council as a regional institution,” Al Thani said during a press conference in Moscow.

He added that there are “no obstacles” in reaching a resolution and confirmed Qatar has been negotiating with Saudi Arabia only.

The Qatari foreign minister also called for Iran-GCC dialogue while welcoming all peace initiatives, reiterating Doha’s role in ensuring peace in the region.

In 2017, Saudi, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced the illegal blockade on Qatar, severing all diplomatic relations with the latter. The quartet issued a list of 13 demands that would bring an end to the blockade, with one of them being the shutting down of the global Qatar-based broadcaster, Al Jazeera.

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