The March decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar caused quite a stir.
As a rule the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, are at pains to present a united front. There have been a few tiffs over the years -Oman recently refused to give its approval to a single Gulf currency- but, on the whole, nothing of this magnitude since the organisation was formed in May 1981, with the purpose of achieving unity among its members based on their similar political and cultural identities and common objectives.
This latest dispute is being seen as a result of Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically in relation to support for the ousted government of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, which flies in the face of that the majority of government ministers of other GCC members hold dear.
The GCC states are six separate entities; it is probable that in its 33 years the Council has seen many heated quarrels behind closed doors. So why such a spectacularly public fall out now?
It would be easy to join the speculationists but, ultimately, that would serve little purpose.
However, at a time when most of the world is looking towards making alliances of various forms to gain strength in unity, the GCC should not allow itself to be splintered by internecine squabbles.
There has been rivalry, envy and even hostility between some states, sometimes, but nothing that has threatened the unity of the Council in any serious way.
These broken GCC fences must now be mended with haste. This is not a global political climate in which neighbours should be driving wedges between themselves. God knows, there are too many willing to do that for them and to collect the extravagant rewards of success.
Pat Lancaster, Editor