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KHALEEJ TIMES, Thursday, Dec 6, 2018 | Rabi Al Awwal 28, 1440

Saudi summit invite puts Qatar in a fix

Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will host the 39th annual GCC Summit amid ambiguity over who will be attending it on behalf of Qatar and what its strategy will be.

The Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has apparently received a written invitation from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, to attend the annual Gulf Summit, a Qatar News Agency report said on Tuesday.

Despite the differences between the GCC states and Qatar, the summit continues to convene annually in December. Analysts say the GCC's keenness to hold the summit under any circumstances shows the political will of the member states to maintain unity.

Doha has been criticising the GCC ever since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced a boycott of Qatar since June 2017 over its support to terror groups and interference in neighbours' affairs. Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani was on record describing the GCC as an "ineffective tool". The GCC countries regarded such statements by Qatar as an attempt to break the unity of the GCC in favour of Iran and Turkey which do not want the countries of the region to come under one umbrella.

Observers say Qatar faces a tricky situation viz-a-viz attending the GCC Summit. If it attends the summit, it will have to suffer the embarrassment of facing the Saudi king after its media's clear anti-Saudi role in propaganda surrounding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In the event of not attending the summit, it will have to face criticism of breaking the unity of the GCC.

The invitation to Qatar to attend the GCC Summit raises several questions. Kuwait Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al Jarallah tried to end the speculation by saying the exact modalities of the summit have not been finalised yet. "Right now we are in the process of distributing the invitations, and there is nothing specific regarding the attendance. We hope the GCC Summit in Saudi Arabia sees a high level of attendance," Al Jarallah added.

In December last year, the 38th GCC Summit was held in a tense and complicated environment amid the boycott imposed by the three Arab states. Notwithstanding this, the annual meeting took place reflecting the resolve of the GCC states to maintain unity.

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