06 June 2017

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism, in an unprecedented breach between the most powerful members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The three GCC states have closed all air, sea and land transportation links with Qatar, banned their citizens from traveling there and ordered all Qatari citizens to leave within 14 days.

However, no official word has come from the two remaining Gulf members: Oman and Kuwait.

Reuters reported that Qatar's ruler postponed an address to his country on Tuesday in order to allow Kuwait some time and room to mediate.

Zawya spoke to three experts to get an insight into what the next move could be for Omani and Kuwaiti officials and how the crisis may impact them.

Ghanem Nuseibeh, director at advisory firm Cornerstone Global: They want to appear as neutral and try to mediate… Oman tries to stay away from regional politics and I don't see it taking a proactive role. Kuwait is closer to the Saudi and Emirati position and the longer it takes, the more pressure Kuwait will likely put on Qatar. We've already seen the Emir of Kuwait asking Qatar's Emir not to escalate. They share the same outlook as Saudi and it will be difficult - particularly for Kuwait - to take a position that is at odds with Saudi Arabia. The longer the crisis continues, the more likely the patience of Kuwait with Qatar will run out.

Hamad Althunayyan, a Kuwaiti PhD Researcher in Political Science at the University of Maryland: Kuwait has always sought to maintain a unified front within the GCC, and the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Ahmad, was persistent in using shuttle diplomacy to solve intra-GCC disputes in the past. Kuwait is less likely to sever ties with Doha, and it will use its diplomatic leverage to ease tensions between Riyadh and Doha, as it did back in 2014. Kuwait can lead a successful diplomatic effort to ease tensions between all parties, but any success will largely depend on the responsiveness of Qatar to Saudi concerns. Oman will not cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. I think they will encourage an internal GCC dialogue to de-escalate tensions.

Mohammad Ramadhan, a Kuwaiti economic analyst and a regular columnist at Kuwait’s Arabic daily Al Qabas: Kuwait's situation is very clear. It wants to be part of the solution not part of the crisis. Kuwait was also elected as a member of the [United Nations] Security Council for the next two years, and this re-enforces its position as a mediator in this crisis.

The crisis, however, presents commercial and financial opportunities for companies in Kuwait. Kuwait can be a financial and commercial centre for companies from UAE, Saudi, and Bahrain dealing with Qatar. With the UAE and Bahrain trade ties with Qatar affected, both Kuwait and Oman can draw these trade transactions. But given that Kuwait-GCC relations are better than Oman-GCC ties, Kuwait is more fit to play this role, especially considering that it has better infrastructure than Oman.

Kuwait can be a re-export center for transporting goods between some GCC countries and Qatar. There are many examples, regionally and globally, with countries taking advantage of certain political situations for economic gains. For instance, Dubai capitalized on trade ties with Iran following the global sanctions on Iran.

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