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Gulf rulers boycotting Qatar skip annual summit

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Qatar’s Emir said on Tuesday he hoped a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Kuwait would help maintain stability in the region, Al-Jazeera TV said, though three Arab heads of state involved in a rift with Qatar stayed away.

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Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain sent ministers or deputy prime ministers to the annual event. The countries and non-GCC member Egypt have imposed economic, diplomatic and trade sanctions on Qatar in a dispute that began in June.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said the summit took place in “highly sensitive circumstances”. He and Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah were the only heads of state to attend the meeting.

“I am full of hope that the summit will lead to results that will maintain the security of the Gulf and its stability,” Tamim said, according to the Doha-based Al-Jazeera.

Sheikh Sabah said in a speech at the end of the summit: “We proved once again the resilience of our Gulf institution and its ability to be steadfast, simply by holding into the mechanism of convening these meetings.”

In his opening speech, the Kuwaiti ruler called for a mechanism to be set up in the Western-backed grouping to resolve disputes among its members.

Relations within the Gulf have soured since the four Arab states accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the charges.

Kuwait, which had spearheaded unsuccessful mediation efforts since the rift began, had hoped the summit would give leaders a chance to meet face-to-face, two Gulf diplomats said.

Earlier, the UAE said it would set up a bilateral cooperation committee with Saudi Arabia, separate from the GCC, on political, economic and military issues.

UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the new committee would be chaired by Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, Mohammed Bin Zayed, state news agency WAM reported. Saudi Arabia has not yet commented.

The proposal coincides with an escalation in a conflict in Yemen that involves Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Veteran former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a roadside attack on Monday after switching sides in the war and abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favor of a Saudi-led coalition.

The GCC was founded in 1980 as a bulwark against bigger neighbors Iran and Iraq.

Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg