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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 16:05 PM | 05-12-2017

Uncertainty at Gulf summit as UAE, S.Arabia form new group

The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday (Dec 5, 2017) announced it has formed a new economic and partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council — a move that could undermine the council amid a diplomatic crisis with member state Qatar, The Associated Press reported.

The Emirati foreign ministry announcement, just hours ahead of a GCC meeting in Kuwait, said the new “joint cooperation committee” was approved by the UAE’s ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan.

Saudi Arabia did not immediately comment on the new partnership.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the development could affect the six-member GCC meeting, which is expected to focus on the Qatar issue. Half of the GCC members are boycotting Doha in a dispute that has cleaved the Arabian Peninsula.

The Emirati ministry said the new “committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries.”

Meanwhile, it has also been reported that Saudi Arabia snubbed Qatar at the summit as King Salman stayed away despite the presence of the Qatari emir.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani accepted an invitation to attend, but with only hours before talks were due to begin, Saudi King Salman sent his foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, in his stead.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have cultivated even-closer ties in recent years. Emirati troops are deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nayhan, also is believed to have a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Emirati announcement did not say whether any other Gulf Arab countries would be invited to join the new group but the development puts pressure on the GCC, a group of American-allied Gulf Arab nations formed in part in 1981 as a counterbalance to Shiite power Iran. It includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates.

The dispute began in June, following what Qatar described as a hack of its state-run news agency that saw incendiary comments attributed to its ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Soon after, GCC members Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates closed off their airspace and seaports to Qatar, as well as the small peninsular nation’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia.

The boycott initially riled Doha, though it soon replaced food products with those flown in from Turkey and Iran.

 

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