© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers arrive in Riyadh ahead of an annual summit of heads of state and government
By Ghaida Ghantous and Aziz El Yaakoubi
DUBAI (Reuters) – An annual Gulf Arab summit has been postponed to January while the parties were embroiled in a heated argument that led to a boycott of Qatar to announce a specific deal, although a final resolution is likely to take longer informed informed sources.
The dispute, in which Saudi Arabia and its allies severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar in mid-2017, sparked a movement with Riyadh earlier this month, according to which a final solution was within reach.
The other nations involved were more circumspect as they welcomed the progress made in the mediation efforts by Kuwait and the United States to call for the unification of the Gulf Arabs against Iran.
Four sources familiar with the matter said they expected an announcement to coincide with the summit, which usually takes place in December, and that Qatar's emir has not partnered with boycott nation leaders since 2017.
A Gulf source said an agreement to be signed by ministers ahead of the leaders' summit could lead to a set of principles for negotiation or a more concrete move in which airspace into Qatar is a sign of good faith is opened again.
"Things are moving fast but are still in the air. Negotiating a final solution will take months and months," the source said.
Another source close to the matter said that when Kuwait announced progress it had promised all heads of state or government would attend the summit, but the airspace reopening talks that Washington had been pushing were still on hold ran.
SAUDI LEADS THE QATAR
A foreign diplomat in the region, who was also expecting full attendance at the meeting, said a tentative deal could be followed by another impasse.
The Saudis appeared to be tougher than their allies, the diplomat said, and Doha was poised to push for a comprehensive deal, especially in light of US President-elect Joe Biden's pledge to take a firmer stance on Saudi Arabia.
"The Saudis are keen to show Biden that they are peacemakers and open to dialogue," said the diplomat, adding that the Gulf powerhouse is likely to convince reluctant allies to join.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt outside the Gulf accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, alluding to Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Doha denies the charges, saying the boycott is aimed at curtailing its sovereignty.
The UAE is in conflict with Qatar in Libya and over the Muslim Brotherhood, also important issues for Cairo.
"If there are still countries in the region that support terrorism and extremism, this will be a problem," said UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan at a press conference this week when he was dealing with the dispute concerned.
Qatar says any resolution should be based on mutual respect, including foreign policy.
Doha had made 13 demands, ranging from the shutdown of Al Jazeera television and the closure of a Turkish base to the disconnection with the Muslim Brotherhood and the downgrading of relations with Iran.
A senior Omani diplomat said some issues, such as Turkey, took more time but "sand shifts are happening" following a rare phone call between Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month.
"I see light at the end of the tunnel," said the diplomat.