Bahrain urges end to regional disputes as Gulf summit looms

By: AFP      Published: 10:41 PM, 23 Dec, 2020
Bahrain urges end to regional disputes as Gulf summit looms

Bahrain called 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 Defence 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, 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 Islamist movements, charges Doha denies. 

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 comes 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 say the UAE has been reluctant to compromise.

Qatar had a longstanding territorial dispute with Bahrain that was only resolved by the International Court of Justice in 2001.

Last month, two Bahraini boats breached Qatari territorial waters, Doha's interior ministry claimed in a statement, a rare incident in the ongoing Gulf crisis.

Bahrain insisted however that the two vessels, part of its coastguard fleet, had been wrongfully intercepted.

On Sunday, Manama accused Doha of confiscating 47 Bahraini fishing boats, but stressed during a cabinet meeting the next day "the importance of direct bilateral negotiations with Qatar to reach a lasting agreement" on fishing activities, according to the BNA. 

Referring to the wider Gulf spat, Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said during an official visit to Moscow on Wednesday "no party from this crisis will emerge victorious".

"We will all emerge victorious only if a solution is found and trust is rebuilt," he said during a press conference alongside his Russian counterpart.