Doha – Arab leaders from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council arrived Tuesday to Qatar for the group’s first regional summit since an agreement ended an unusually public dispute among the clubby Western-allied nations.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain formally withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in March in a move widely seen as a protest over Qatar’s support for Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have branded the Brotherhood a “terrorist group”.
Security issues are expected to dominate the summit in Doha. The meeting also takes place amid a sharp tumble in oil prices that is likely to impact energy-rich Gulf Arab states.
Of the six GCC nations, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have taken part in airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Qatar and Kuwait are hosting bases for Western countries active in the US-led coalition.
Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani expressed hope that the summit marks the start of a new page in Gulf relations.
“The emergence of terrorism, which the civilized world is witnessing and in particular our Arab region, … requires a concerted group effort from us and the international community,” he said.
State media and government-linked commentators across the Gulf had been calling for an end to the diplomatic spat that emerged earlier this year in the face of emerging threats from the Islamic State group.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain agreed to reinstate ambassadors last month after several rounds of high-level talks that led to Qatar expelling some Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Details of the agreement were not made public.
Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and UAE Prime Minister and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum are taking part in the summit. Prince Salman is next-in-line to the Saudi throne, while Sheikh Mohammed also serves as ruler of Dubai.
Also in attendance are Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and a senior official from Oman.