The withdrawal by Bahrain and OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE of their ambassadors from Qatar, a fellow OPEC producer, exposes a serious rift amongst the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

While energy ties are unlikely to be severed, the move endangers efforts to forge a more effective regional economic and political bloc at a particularly turbulent time in the Middle East. Opposing loyalties to the protagonists in the Syrian conflict and the debacle in Egypt are at the heart of the latest crisis in the oil-rich Gulf. (CONTINUED - 1164 WORDS)