Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—An emergency meeting of the leaders of members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is expected to be held next week in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, to discuss resuming talks on ending the diplomatic rift between Qatar and its neighbors, informed Gulf sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.
The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said the meeting will discuss efforts to achieve rapprochement between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain on the other.
Qatar fell out with the GCC earlier this year after fellow member states accused Doha of violating an agreement not to interfere with the internal affairs of other GCC member states.
Relations deteriorated on March 5 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha.
The growing tensions within the GCC threatened to prevent the organization’s annual meeting scheduled for next month, which is due to be hosted by Qatar. The source, however, said the summit would be held on schedule.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, invited GCC rulers to the Doha summit on Tuesday.
“We welcome our brothers, the GCC leaders, at a summit hosted by Qatar next month,” the 34-year-old Emir said during a speech to the country’s advisory Shura Council on Tuesday. During the speech, the Sheikh Tamim emphasized that “deepening the bonds of brotherhood among [GCC members] is the top priority of our foreign policy.”
The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al Sabah, spoke to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, and his Qatari counterpart on Monday, in what observers said was an attempt to dispel fears that the GCC’s forthcoming annual gathering would be canceled at a time when its members are increasingly concerned by a number of regional crises.
Meanwhile, the Emir of Qatar announced the appointment of his half-brother, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Thani, as his deputy on Tuesday.
Sheikh Abdullah, the seventh son of Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Georgetown University, and previously chaired the Emiri Diwan (the Emir’s office). He will take over the Emir’s duties when he travels abroad.
Dr. Salman Shaikh, head of the Brookings Doha Institute, told Asharq Al-Awsat the appointment of the 26-year-old, who has considerable experience in Qatar’s administrative affairs, “reinforces the young nature of the leadership.”
He added: “It shows that the Emir believes in [the] youth”
Shaikh also stressed the appointment does not mean Sheikh Abdullah is the next heir apparent, and that he thinks the position is “a temporary job.”
Since the Emir’s sons were currently very young, he said, the development represented a good sign for the stability of Qatar.
“I think there was a question of—unlike the previous time—who is the heir apparent. Well, this answers the question of who’s next—for now at least.”
Mohammed Al-Shafey contributed reporting from London.