IS fears make Gulf monarchies set aside differences

DUBAI: Advances by militants in Syria and Iraq, and US calls for a coalition against them have made Gulf monarchies set aside disputes over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, analysts say.

Wary of spectacular gains made by Islamic State jihadists, the oil-rich monarchies fear the militants could advance towards their own borders, where the extreme ideologies could find support.

“The biggest danger [in the Gulf] comes now from these [emerging] terrorist groups, and not from the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Abdulaziz Sager, head of the Gulf Research Centre think-tank.

Qatar’s relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sank to a new low in March when the three governments withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, accusing it of meddling in their affairs and supporting the Brotherhood — designated as “terrorist” by Riyadh.

For Sager, the UAE was “the strictest” against Qatar among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter Sunday that his country’s interest lies “in a strong Arab Gulf… sheltered from regional differences. “Speaking to reporters following a meeting of Gulf Arab foreign ministers, Kuwait’s top diplomat Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah said that the six-months spat with Qatar was on its way to being resolved.

He said the ambassadors could return to their posts “at any time”, without giving a specific date.

The announcement came as Saudi King Abdullah underscored the threat posed by jihadists unless there is “rapid” action.

“Terrorism knows no border and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East,” Abdullah was quoted as telling ambassadors, including the US envoy, on Friday.

“If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month,” he warned. Saudi Arabia follows a strict version of Islamic sharia law. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who took part in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were from the kingdom.

Saudi authorities have long feared blowback from militant groups, particularly after a spate of Al-Qaeda attacks in the kingdom from 2003 to 2006.

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