Gulf leaders convene for annual summit amid regional tension

Riyadh: The leaders of Gulf Arab states arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for their annual summit, a united meeting that comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme and after a yearslong boycott of Qatar.

The Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, previously a contentious affair given that three out of the six members cut ties with Qatar in 2017, follows a rare regional tour by the Saudi crown prince to rally support among neighbouring allies.

At the summit nearly a year ago, Saudi Arabia spearheaded an end to the four-nation embargo of Qatar, restoring diplomatic ties after years of hostility. The UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have since followed suit in taking steps to reopen borders and mend ties with Doha.

Saudi state television aired footage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warmly embracing Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the tarmac in Riyadh. Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa also arrived for the summit late Tuesday, while the UAE sent Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The leaders are convening as talks to revive Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers flounder in Vienna. Since former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord, Iran has stepped up its nuclear programme. It’s now enriching uranium up to 60 per cent purity, a technical step from weapons-grade levels, alarming its Gulf neighbours.

At a preparatory meeting early this week, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said the leaders would discuss sensitive topics of regional security and how to present a united Gulf front.