RIYADH: The Gulf crisis, which has seen Qatar isolated by Saudi Arabia and its allies, is not on the table at the upcoming meeting of Arab League states, Riyadh’s foreign minister said Thursday.
“The solution of Qatar will be within the GCC,” or the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh ahead of the Arab Summit.
He was responding to an AFP question on whether the crisis was on the agenda at the meeting on Sunday, which is hosted by Saudi Arabia and joins 21 of the 22 Arab League member states.
Syria is technically a member of the league but has been suspended from the summit since 2011 over the government’s role in the war there. Qatar has confirmed its attendance at the Saudi summit.
The 10-month Gulf crisis pits Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain against Qatar. It is the worst crisis to ever hit the Gulf, home to both the world’s largest exporters of oil and liquified natural gas – Saudi Arabia and Qatar respectively.
Riyadh and its allies broke off relations with Doha in June, accusing it of fostering close links with Tehran and supporting terrorists. Qatar denies the charges.
The boycott includes the closure of the small Gulf state’s only land border with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi media close to the government this week announced the kingdom planned to dig a canal the length of its border with Qatar, to turn its peninsula neighbour into an isolated island.
The planned canal, dubbed ‘Salwa’, is “funded entirely by Saudi and Emirati private sector investment under full Saudi authority,” Sabq Online Newspaper reported on Monday.
The Saudi government has not issued a denial. Kuwait, a member of the GCC, has led mediation efforts in the crisis – to no avail – with the support of the United States.
US President Donald Trump had initially supported the Saudi-led economic blockade on Qatar, but aides – mindful of the pivotal role that the Al Udeid Air Base outside Doha plays in US Middle East operations – have since convinced him to take a more moderate approach.
Trump met with the Emir of Qatar at the White House on Tuesday, barely one year after alleging Doha funded terrorism at a “high level” and less than two weeks after meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The president on Tuesday dubbed the Qatari emir a ‘friend’ and “great gentleman”.