Bahrain urges end to regional disputes as Gulf summit looms

DUBAI (AFP) – Bahrain called on Wednesday for an end to regional disputes, the latest statement suggesting a rift between Qatar and four countries could ease ahead of a Gulf summit next month.

Manama’s Supreme Defense Council, led by King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, convened on Wednesday and declared a need “to end regional conflicts and disputes by peaceful means”, according to the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with and initiated an economic blockade against Qatar in June 2017, saying it was too close to Iran and funding radical extremist movements, charges Doha denied.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – comprised of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar – will meet on January 5 in Saudi Arabia.

The softened rhetoric surrounding the three-year dispute came amid Riyadh-led efforts to resolve the crisis.

Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said a resolution was in sight, with the four governments behind the blockade “on board” and a final agreement expected soon.

Egypt and the UAE have since given their public support to the negotiations although diplomatic sources said the UAE has been reluctant to compromise.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash said on Twitter on Wednesday, “we look forward to a successful summit in Riyadh that strengthens the Gulf dialogue”.