SAUDI ARABIA Rift within GCC ‘coming to an end’
Reports indicate Qatar will expel Gulf citizens active with the Muslim Brotherhood and tone down Al Jazeera coverage
Dubai: Gulf foreign ministers were to hold on Thursday an extraordinary meeting in Riyadh in a bid to defuse tensions between Qatar and three other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an unnamed Gulf official said.
Heavyweight Saudi Arabia, as well as the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar last month, accusing it of meddling in their internal affairs and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Gulf official said that the impromptu meeting aims to settle differences, but pointed out that there was no clear idea as yet about how the foreign ministers will go about doing it.
Reports from Bahrain have indicated that an accord was eventually reached and that the foreign ministers of the GCC would hold an extraordinary session on Thursday for the announcement.
According to a report published in Bahraini daily Al Ayam on Thursday and citing reports in the region, the new accord stipulates that Qatar deport around 15 Gulf nationals who are allegedly active members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including five UAE and two Saudi nationals, living in Doha.
Qatar-based pan-Arab television station Al Jazeera would be, under the reported deal, less aggressive in its coverage of events in some GCC countries and Egypt and avoid referring to the Egyptian military’s ouster last year of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mohammad Mursi as a “military coup.”
Egyptian opposition figures living in Qatar would not be allowed to use Qatari media or Qatari-funded media, the reports said.
Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs told London-based Saudi daily Al Hayat in an interview published on Thursday that the rift between the GCC had ended and had become “a thing of the past”.
He told the paper that the dispute was solved internally, within the GCC, “without allowing anyone to interfere”. The rift, he said, was a “storm that has passed”.
On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal told reporters that GCC countries “are free in their policies, provided they do not harm interests of other members” of the regional grouping.
“As long as these countries adhere to this principle, there will be no problems among GCC states.”
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are hostile to the Brotherhood, fearing its brand of grassroots activism could undermine their authority.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE on March 5 pulled out their ambassadors from Qatar after complaining that Doha had failed to comply with a non-interference agreement signed last year under the auspices of Kuwait.
Efforts have been deployed by fellow GCC member Kuwait to reconcile the two sides and put an end to the worst political rift to hit the six-member alliance since it was established in 1981 in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
Saudi Arabia has persistently insisted there could be no reconciliation until Qatar changed its attitude and honoured the agreement that stipulated non-interference in the domestic affairs of fellow GCC members and not extending support to the Muslim Brotherhood, considered an illegal movement in many GCC countries.