Key regional issues top agenda of GCC summit



RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN

Published — Monday 17 December 2012

Last update 17 December 2012 3:38 am

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Key regional developments, particularly the intransigent attitude of Syria, Iran and Israel, will top the agenda of the summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Bahrain next week. The ministerial council of the GCC has finalized the summit agenda, which is more focused on regional issues, closer defense cooperation, security threats, commercial cooperation and above all citizens' welfare.
"Bahrain is gearing up to host the 33rd GCC summit on Dec. 24," said Saleem S. A. Al-Alwi, a spokesman of the GCC General Secretariat, here yesterday. He said that there were "many challenges" facing the GCC today. It is therefore important for this regional bloc to address the major issues and the obstacles that it is facing, he added. The agenda has been formulated in such a way that it seeks to strengthen the GCC's structure and achieve the aspirations of its people after it is discussed by the summit.
Al-Alwi said that the Riyadh-based GCC Secretariat and the Bahraini government are gearing to host the two-day summit in Manama. To this end, he noted GCC Secretary-General Abdullateef Al-Zayani held talks with Hamoud bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, Bahrain's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, here yesterday. A contingent of officials from the Riyadh-based GCC General Secretariat will also fly to Manama early next week. Hundreds of top officials including dozens of ministers from the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia will also participate in the summit talks.
Referring to the agenda of the GCC summit, a statement released by the GCC Secretariat, said that "it is critical for the GCC to speed up its works on the future road map toward full integration." The changing environment in the region as well as developments that have taken place within the past decade define the priorities of the GCC as regional bloc, it said, quoting GCC chief Al-Zayani. Al-Zayani said in the statement, that the topics of discussion among the heads of GCC states will not be "limited" to certain issues or problems affecting the region.
They may choose any other subject or any other topic that falls beyond the format of traditional agenda, he added. Of course, regional issues and the latest international developments will figure high in the talks, but the events in Syria are set to hold a special significance. The GCC, especially Saudi Arabia, has been actively involved in providing assistance to Syrians as they struggle with the difficult situation in their country. The summit may also review reports that call for closer security cooperation, formation of the GCC Union, formation of a joint GCC police force and cooperation in the field of nuclear energy.
This will be in addition to the "subject of environment and economic unification" to be taken up for discussions, said a GCC official, who did not want to be identified. In addition, each country has its own opinion and every member state has also witnessed various developments — especially when it comes to infrastructure, education and population, he observed. All of these variables have made it necessary today that the Gulf countries address what best can be attained for its people in the coming decades.
Referring to the forthcoming summit, the statement further said that "the summit will continue the trend of achievements. When you look at the larger picture, you see that the GCC has never regressed and that it has always moved forward." Today’s GCC is different from what it was 10 or 20 years ago, it added.
All issues to be discussed at the summit are interlinked besides being urgent that calls for urgent attention, said the statement. “We cannot separate security issues from economic or political issues or even social issues," read the statement.

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