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Widening Division: PGCC Nearing Its End?

Alwaght– At the recent (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC)’s summit, a set of issues drew the attention: the absentees of the summit, its short time, and also the closing statement. These three signaled that the PGCC is at least no longer a united body as it was in the past.

The meeting, which was hosted by Kuwait, was held in such ambiguous climate that even some analysts went to the extent that they talked about the imminence of the end of the political life of this six-nation Arab organization. The PGCC held its first meeting in six months after the Qatari diplomatic crisis with other three members, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain. It was too much of a cold and ceremonial meeting in the heated and tense atmosphere of the Persian Gulf region.

Who were the top absentees?

A couple of days before holding the meeting in Kuwait, some sources familiar with the event reported that the Emir of Kuwait Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah put to work his efforts to see Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and King Salman of Saudi Arabia attending the gathering. Some analysts said that presence of the two leaders of the opponent countries at the summit could mean that they show signals of willingness to work towards a solution to the Qatar crisis. But absence of the Saudi ruler along with Bahraini king and Emirati emir from a meeting that only was attended by the Kuwaiti and Qatari emirs as the heads of state laid bare the fact that tensions remain plaguing the diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Doha, and that a clear outlook for the end of the feud between the two Arab neighbors is far from being spotted anytime soon.

In the meeting of the bloc, the rulers of Kuwait and Qatar as the top leaders of the two Persian Gulf emirates were present, but Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, the three countries which engaged in a diplomatic row with Qatar in June and imposed an all-out blockade on Doha, sent their foreign ministers. As ever, the Sultanate of Oman, another member of the Cooperation Council, participated at a foreign-ministerial level. So, of the six member states, only two participated at the level of leaders, with the other four participating with foreign ministers.

Three-day summit cut short to three-hour meeting

Ordinarily, the summits of the six states in the past lasted two to three days. But the recent one was different, encompassed in atmosphere of coldness and reluctance that its normal two or three-day length was reduced to a couple of hours. There was no more of those pictures posed for by the leaders of the Arab sheikhdoms at the end of the summit. Nor could we see the normally-held commissions on the sidelines of the meeting to discuss the current affairs of the region.

Cutting short the time of the gathering to a couple of hours from the normal time of two or three days came to exhibit that the members essentially had no hope about pursuing the common challenges through the channel of this council, which was founded in 1981. The additional notion that emanated from the meeting was that the PGCC as a regional organization is even more impotent than ever in accomplishing its role as a unified political regime in the Persian Gulf.

Ambiguous closing statement

The ending statement contained not more than a general touching on the regional issues. In fact, it stopped short of pointing to iterative cases like the security of the region and the need to set in motion efforts to raise the level of cooperation between the member states, though it declined to decide what was necessary to provide security and cooperation.

The region is inundated with crucial cases such as the Yemen crisis, the Qatar diplomatic rift, and the Palestinian cause and controversial decision of the American President Donald Trump to recognize Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of the Israeli regime. And all of the members of the bloc are directly involved in them. However, the statement was so general and vague as if it was written to address developments of another part of the word not the Persian Gulf region. It was a showcase of lack of the least consensus among the members of the troubled council. That was why the current security and political challenges were referred to very generally.

Parallel committee to be formed

On the other side, as the meeting went on in Kuwait, some remarks came from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi telling of Saudi Arabia and UAE intentions to found a regional partnership body independent of the PGCC.

On the same day of the presence of the Kuwaiti and Qatari emirs at the meeting, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of the UAE, ordered forming common cooperation committee between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. The first article of the decree said that activity of such a cooperation and coordination committee between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in political, military, economic, commercial, cultural, and other areas serves the two states’ interests. The same idea was held by the Saudi leaders, as the Saudi state news channel Al Arabiya reported.

This is not a simple cooperation committee, as it appears. Joint work in military and political areas along with its announcement in coincidence with the Cooperation Council’s summit indicate that the two countries are aiming at pursuing their objectives in the future not through the body of the council but via an independent committee, something signaling that PGCC is nearly finished on the part of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Therefore, a panoramic view of this Persian Gulf region’s council shows polarization is leading to the rise of inter-state smaller blocs. Now Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain make their own camp. Oman, as usual, holds its neutral stances. On the opposite side stands Qatar that forms its own front against the adversary trio. And Kuwait neither wants to be in tune with Saudi Arabia nor is it a backer of Qatar.

Such deep polarization in an organization as small as the six-member PGCC is an obvious sign of the political death of the bloc which during 35 years of its life has failed to reach an overwhelming consensus of the six nations on the regional issues. Now with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Manama separating their ways and ordinary absence of Oman, the council more than any other time is nearing its end. Perhaps from now on, its meetings can be described as ceremonial gatherings, rather than contexts in which members reach common views

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