The White House has abandoned efforts to arrange a summit with Gulf Arab leaders during President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia next week because of the “complex situation between and among the members of the GCC”, Obama’s top national security aide said yesterday.

Obama will go ahead with his scheduled talks with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh next Friday, at the end of a trip to Europe that is expected to be dominated by the Ukraine crisis.

In an unprecedented move within the Gulf Co-operation Council, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on March 5.

The three GCC states are reported to be upset by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said the White House weeks ago had considered holding a GCC summit in Riyadh and began “preliminary consultations” but then abandoned the idea.

“The situation between and among the members of the GCC has grown more complex of late,” she told reporters at a briefing to preview Obama’s trip. “And while we maintain very strong and co-operative relationships with each of the GCC countries, we didn’t think that from their point of view that the time was optimal for a collective meeting.”

US officials have made clear they would prefer to see Gulf partners reconciled but Rice stopped short of saying Washington would try to mediate among the group.

She said, however, that Obama’s talks with the Saudi king and his meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan at a nuclear security conference in The Hague next week “will inform our efforts to encourage the continued co-operation among those partners in the GCC”.


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