The committee, which would be staffed on the Emirati side by representatives of federal and local government bodies and sectors, “is assigned to co-operate and co-ordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interests of the two countries,” a statement from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The committee was announced in the form of a resolution by the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
“The committee shall have the powers necessary for carrying out and executing its work,” the statement added.
It will be jointly chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, and by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE deputy prime minster and minister of president affairs.
There was no official confirmation from the government of Saudi Arabia at the time of publication.
Coming on the first day of the summit of Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries in Kuwait, the UAE announcement prompted speculation that a new alliance was being created to rival the GCC at a time of acute strain within the 36-year-old alliance.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, backed by Egypt, have accused fellow GCC member Qatar of funding terrorism in the region and acting as an ally of Iran as it seeks to expand its power regionally.
The countries, known collectively as the Anti-Terror Quartet, have boycotted Qatar since the summer by cutting trade, transport and financial links.
The Kuwait summit, normally attended by heads of state, consisted of ministers from five of the six member countries, with the exception of Qatar, which was represented by its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani
There were unconfirmed reports that the summit would only last one day rather than the scheduled two.
Ghanem Nuseibeh, regional expert and founder of the think tank Cornerstone Global Associates, said of the planned UAE/Saudi alliance: “It will not necessarily replace the GCC but it will cover more areas on a more practical level than what the GCC was able to achieve.
“The effectiveness of the GCC as a block has significantly eroded over time and this new alliance will undoubtedly make up for this,” Nuseibeh added. Anthony Harris, former British ambassador to the UAE and Saudi diplomat, said: “I think the rest of the GCC, especially Oman and Kuwait, would like to see the GCC continue and they hope for some sort of move by Qatar to lessen the tension.”
He added: “This reinforces a trend in closer cooperation between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh which has been growing ever since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi crown prince.
“By my calculations KSA and the UAE have nearly 40 million inhabitants, while the other four GCC states have about 12.5 million in all. So it makes sense for the two largest economies to forge ahead,” Harris added.
Nuseibeh said: “This alliance is a formalization of the ties between the UAE and KSA that have been strengthening over the past few years. It will create greater alignment between both countries at all levels and in multiple sectors and will also positively affect the private sector and ordinary citizens of both countries.
“On a political level, it will strength the positions of both countries as they deal on the international arena, speaking with a united voice.”
The UAE and Saudi Arabia already cooperate significantly in military affairs and in foreign policy, especially in Yemen. A joint trading block would, in theory, be able to negotiate trade agreements more easily than the more cumbersome mechanism of the GCC.