Gulf Summit boycotted: Five Things to Know About Unfolding Qatar Crisis

Three Arab states involved in a rift with Qatar have skipped a two-day summit in Kuwait expected to focus on the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Doha and neighboring nations.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit began on December 5 and was supposed to last two days. It was cut short after just one day of meetings.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said the event 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 event, while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain sent ministers or deputy prime ministers to the annual event, Reuters reported. The five countries, along with Oman, form the council.

The summit occurred against the backdrop of a six-month-long blockade on Qatar, isolated after being accused of supporting terrorism.

Shortly before the event, the UAE had announced it had formed a new economic and partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the GCC, in a move expected to further increase divisiveness in the region.

As details on whether the summit had any positive effects on the crisis are yet to emerge, here are five questions that can help understand the complex situation, which some analysts have described as one of the worst Gulf crises of recent years.

Why is Qatar facing isolation?

In June, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar after accusing it of supporting terrorist groups and implementing policies that could jeopardize the equilibrium of the region.

Qatar has long been accused of sponsoring terrorism. The country has faced criticism for its alleged support of rebel groups involved in the war in Syria, and its ties with Iran, which is Saudi Arabia's regional rival.

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani
A picture taken on December 4, 2017 shows Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani (C) attending the meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of foreign ministers at the Bayan palace in Kuwait City. The summit is taking place amid the backdrop of a six-month-long blockade on Qatar, accused of terrorism. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images

What sparked the crisis?

Tensions between Qatar and neighboring countries are not new, but they have worsened in recent years. The diplomatic and economic isolation began shortly after Qatar claimed it had been a victim of a hacking incident in May.

At the time, the Qatari government said its official Qatar News Agency carried a "false statement" on sensitive regional topics after being hacked.

Among other controversial stances, the "false statement" attributed to Al-Thani praised good relations with Israel. The emir also deemed, according to the statement, the Sunni Islamic militant organisation Hamas as the "official representative of Palestinians". Countries including Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

What could solve the crisis?

In July, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt issued Qatar with 13 demands it had to meet to end its isolation.

The demands included closing state-funded news outlet Al-Jazeera, closing a Turkish military base, reducing ties with regional adversary Iran, and reducing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood which the four countries have blacklisted as a "terror group".

According to some analysts, Al-Jazeera represents "a thorn" for some countries in the Middle East as it has interviewed opposition elements and given a platform to the Egypt-based Sunni Islamist organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood.

How has Doha reacted?

Doha has denied the allegations and claims it has been targeted by a media campaign that aims to smear the country's reputation.

Doha said the 13 demands it was asked to meet were not actionable and some of them violated the country's sovereignty. In response, the four Gulf states decided to continue with the embargo.

"The fact that UAE said it formed a new military and economic partnership with Saudi Arabia, means that there is an evident rift within the GCC," political analyst and journalist Naseer Giyas told Newsweek.

"Saudi Arabia and the UAE are adamant about the Qatar issue. They will not succumb before any pressure or persuasion, unless the U.S. intervenes. This is because both Gulf nations want to be strategic allies of the super power."

Which countries are backing Qatar?

Kuwait has tried to mediate the crisis, although unsuccessfully so far. Oman has not taken any sides in the ongoing dispute.

Iran and Turkey support Qatar. They have dispatched food supplies to the country, which depends on food imports and was impacted by the blockade.

Turkey also sent a small contingent of soldiers and armored vehicles. The two countries also deemed the list of demands given to Qatar as "disrespectful" and "unacceptable".