Gulf Arab states took a step towards resolving a severe rift in the U.S.-backed alliance on Thursday by agreeing on ways to implement a security agreement they reached last year.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar on March 5, accusing Doha of not abiding by November’s agreement, which called for not interfering in each others internal affairs.
The unprecedented move, which analysts said was ultimately motivated by Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, complicated Gulf efforts to navigate regional turmoil, particularly in Syria and Egypt.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) secretariat said in a statement that foreign ministers of the six-member body had met in Riyadh for a comprehensive review of measures used to implement foreign and security policies.
“It was agreed to adopt the mechanisms that would ensure moving forward in a collective framework, and that the policies of any of the GCC member states would not affect the interests, stability and security of its members and without impacting on the sovereignty of any of its members,” the statement said.
It said the ministers confirmed their countries agreed on the mechanism for implementing an accord which was concluded in Riyadh on November 23 but which was not made public until the withdrawal of ambassadors last month.
However, the statement did not make any reference to the return of the Saudi, UAE and Bahraini ambassadors to Doha.
It was also not immediately clear if the agreement would make Qatar drop its support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain want Qatar to end any financial or political support to the movement in order to end the rift, Gulf officials said earlier on Thursday.
The group has been declared a terrorist organisation by Saudi Arabia, in a move precipitated by the Egyptian army’s ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year after mass protests against his troubled one year in office.
The Islamist movement’s ideology challenges the principle of conservative dynastic rule long dominant in the Gulf, but some of its leading members are based in Qatar and have been able to broadcast their views via the country’s media.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE particularly resent Doha’s sheltering of prominent Brotherhood preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi, a critic of them, and given him regular air time on its pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera, and on Qatari state television.
However, Qatar last month insisted its foreign policy was “non-negotiable” and Qaradawi has resumed giving public sermons after a break, but Saudi Arabia said Doha must change its policies to end the discord.
Kuwait, another member of the GCC, has been working to mediate between its neighbours.