Saudi officials are unhappy that Qatar’s Emir snubbed an invite from King Salman to attend the GCC summit in Riyadh

Qatar’s decision to send a junior foreign minister to the annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh has rattled Saudi officials, according to reports.

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom has pointed out that the deep divisions among Gulf states were exposed when Saudi Arabia’s allies rounded on Qatar’s leadership for snubbing a personal invite from King Salman.

Although Qatar is under a 20-month economic, diplomatic and political boycott by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the state still decided to take part this year. But according to government officials, the low level gesture is not good enough.

Bahrain’s foreign minister openly criticised Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on twitter over his no-show.

“Qatar’s emir should have accepted the fair demands [of the boycotting states] and attended the summit,” he said.

The summit comes at an uncertain time in the 37-year history of the GCC, which was designed as a customs and political union for the six Gulf states. With tensions mounting and no signs of an end to the Saudi-led siege, Qatar continues forward with its own foreign policy and a focus on self-sufficiency.

During this year’s summit, Kuwait’s leader Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah called for an end to the media campaigns he said had planted the seeds of discord in the region, and hoped for a resolution to the dispute.

Qatar’s ministerial delegation was revealed prior to the event and is led by the minister of state for foreign affairs, Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi. The Emir was personally invited by King Salman, and his decision not to attend will be seen as significant.

Qatar has so far been critical of Saudi operations in Yemen, supported the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 and has expressed its sympathy to the family of Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi journalist. All seen as antagonistic by Saudi officials.

Qatar last week underscored its independence from Saudi Arabia by pulling out of OPEC. The Arab state is the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter and its exit from the pact, and senior leadership withdrawal from the GCC summit demonstrates that a resolution to the Gulf row is unlikely any time soon.

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Author

Omar Hajjar is a journalist based in the UK. An investigative reporter, he has lived in 3 different countries in the Middle East over the past 10 years.

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