Qatar says Gulf Arab bloc needs reform to give it teeth

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar said on Saturday it remained committed to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) but the bloc needed to enforce its own rules better, signaling a reformed alliance could help end a row between Doha and some of its neighbors.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar was still counting on Kuwait and other regional powers to help solve the row that has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-GCC member Egypt impose a political and economic boycott on Doha since June 2017.

“We believe that we are more relevant as a bloc” for the West than as separate and fragmented countries, he told the annual Doha Forum, but said the GCC had “no teeth” and needed a dispute resolution mechanism.

“They have mechanisms in place and never trigger them (to hold people accountable) because some countries believe they are non-binding, so we need to make sure all the rules we are submitting to are binding to everyone in this region.”

The four states accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and cozying up to regional foe Iran. Doha denies the charges and says the boycott aims to curtail its sovereignty.

The dispute has eluded mediation efforts by Kuwait, which along with Oman is a part of the GCC, and the United States, which believes Gulf unity is essential to containing Iran.

In a sign the dispute still festered, Qatar’s emir did not attend an annual Gulf summit on Sunday. Doha earlier announced it was quitting OPEC to focus on gas in a move seen as a shot at the oil exporter club’s de facto ruler Saudi Arabia.

“In the Gulf crisis our position remains unchanged – lifting the blockade and settling the differences via dialogue,” Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani told the forum.

Writing by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous, William Maclean

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