Qatari dailies yesterday highlighted the blockade on their county alongside today's 39th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, which the Qatari emir declined to attend, despite an invitation from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
In lieu of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, only state ministers will represent Qatar at the one-day summit of the GCC, a six-nation bloc of oil-rich Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain collectively severed ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism, and imposed an air/land/sea embargo on Qatar. Doha, which announced this month it was quitting the Saudi-dominated OPEC oil cartel, vociferously denies the allegations, but the dispute has dragged on. The last GCC summit was held in Kuwait in December 2017. It was the first to be held amid the crisis over the Qatar blockade, and was attended by the emirs of both Kuwait and Qatar.
Qatari dailies Al-Watan and Al-Sharq reported that the blockade created a large social split. The papers reported that the Gulf system has become disrupted and its achievements squandered by the GCC General Secretariat, held by Saudi Arabia, asserting that "what brings the peoples of the Gulf together the blockade countries sought to scatter and dispel, creating a humanitarian crisis within the GCC social system."
Al-Watan blasted the "arbitrary measures" imposed by the year-and-a-half blockade for "creating a painful tear in the social fabric of the Gulf."
Al-Sharq accused the blockade states of deliberately causing a humanitarian crisis within the GCC social system and continuing this stance at all regional and international forums. The paper said the invitation for Qatar to participate in the summit did not signal a change in stance by the blockade coalition, stressing the need to "investigate the crimes committed by the countries of the blockade before thinking about Qatar attending" the summit. The paper concluded that the summit will not be productive, as the Gulf system has been crippled and its achievements wasted by the GCC General Secretariat, and whatever Qatar's level of participation, it is "keen on the success of the system of the Gulf Cooperation Council."
The GCC was founded to ensure the unity of the Gulf peoples, said Qatari daily Al-Raya yesterday, but the blockade's discriminatory and arbitrary measures have dealt a profound blow to the Gulf's social fabric.
In addition to a bitter diplomatic dispute with Qatar, regional crises clouded Gulf summit as crises brew over the war in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Pressure has been piling up on Riyadh to ease off its offensive, particularly an assault launched in June on the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, a key lifeline for aid entering Yemen. The outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul has increased scrutiny on Riyadh's role in conflicts in the region, potentially giving Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition, greater impetus for action.