Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich monarchies, already rattled by the turmoil unleashed by the 2011 Arab Spring, fear a landmark nuclear agreement reached last month could herald a wider rapprochement between the West and their regional rival Iran. (Agencies)
But a proposal to develop the Gulf Cooperation Council into a fully-fledged union has proven divisive, with Oman threatening to leave the GCC if the idea is approved. The group also includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
"The summit is held amid extremely sensitive and delicate situations that require member states to study the consequences for the GCC," Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani said ahead of the two-day summit, which opens Tuesday in Kuwait.
The summit comes a week after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited four GCC states to reassure them over the interim nuclear agreement, which would freeze some of Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for some sanctions relief.
Relations with Iran "are entering a new space different from the past. A space that is extremely positive and constructive," Kuwait's foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah told reporters after Zarif's visit.
But Zarif did not visit the most important GCC member, Saudi Arabia, although he said he plans to do so in the future.
"Iran is trying to exploit the momentum generated from the nuclear deal and Saudi Arabia is trying to repulse this push. Tehran is trying to create a wedge between Saudi Arabia and some GCC states like Oman and Qatar," Saudi political analyst Khaled al-Dakhil said.
Saudi Arabia, which cautiously welcomed the nuclear deal, is engaged in an increasingly sectarian proxy war with Iran in Syria, where Riyadh backs the Sunni-led rebels and Tehran is a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, whose country is hosting the summit, told reporters on Friday that the conflict in Syria will be high on the agenda.
The Gulf leaders are also expected to discuss Egypt, where Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait strongly backed the July 3 military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, whose government was seen as close to Qatar.
Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich monarchies, already rattled by the turmoil unleashed by the 2011 Arab Spring, fear a landmark nuclear agreement reached last month could herald a wider rapprochement between the West and their regional rival Iran.