GCC agrees further integration at annual summit
On the dispute between member states, Kuwait had proposed before the summit — and all agreed — that the issue should be treated separately and in isolation of the GCC integration process and its international and regional partnerships. The aim was to immunize the GCC against internal disagreements. At the summit, Bahrain handed over the mantle of the GCC presidency to Kuwait and the emir vowed to continue his mediation efforts, while separately shepherding the GCC’s integration and its relations with the rest of the world.
The GCC’s adversaries were betting against the summit taking place and fed the media a steady stream of false news and faulty analysis. Right up to the last minute, some news organizations continued to express doubts about the summit and tried to derail it once it was confirmed.
Besides isolating internal disputes from the rest of the GCC’s work, what then were the main conclusions of the summit? I will outline three main outcomes. The first and most important instrument of integration was the instructions directed at all GCC bodies, councils and committees to complete without delay the implementation of King Salman’s vision for the GCC, according to the timetables previously agreed. In one important part of this vision, the GCC Unified Military Command will include GCC land, naval and air forces. The existing Peninsula Shield Force, GCC Maritime Coordination Center and GCC air forces will be placed under the new unified command. This process of integration of GCC forces is already underway and is expected to be completed in 2018. For internal security, GCCPol, an intra-GCC police coordination center set up four years ago, has been given a wider mandate to fight terrorism and terrorism financing.
Economic integration was given a boost as recommendations by the Economic Development Commissions, including a measure to complete the GCC Economic Union by 2025, were approved. With the GCC Customs Union launched in 2003 and the Common Market in 2008, the Economic Union aims to complete the process of economic integration envisaged in the GCC Economic Agreement of 2001, including integration of the financial markets and banking systems.
Second, the GCC summit approved several measures to deal with regional crises, including those in Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. On Iraq, the summit approved a proposal to launch a “strategic dialogue” with Iraq. It also expressed member states’ decision to participate fully in the Kuwaiti-hosted international donors’ conference, scheduled for February 2018, to mobilize funds and global consensus on the recovery and reconstruction of Iraqi areas liberated from Daesh. The summit further urged Iraqis to unite behind their government as it completes the liberation of all territories from Daesh and embarks on reconciliation between all parties along the lines previously approved, including inclusive governance in all political, administrative and security areas.
Gulf leaders make progress on plans for Unified Military Command, new approaches to crises in region, and improving relations with international partners.
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg
On Yemen, while condemning the brutal assassination of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh by Houthi militias, the summit nevertheless called for a political solution of the crisis, mediated by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and based on UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the GCC Initiative and the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference, which included all major Yemeni political groups, including the Houthis.
On Palestine, the summit was briefed on developments in Washington regarding Jerusalem, but the summit concluded a day before President Donald Trump made his announcement. There were attempts during the summit to change the US position and afterwards the leaders vowed to continue their efforts to try to reverse the American decision or change the course of its implementation. They agreed to communicate directly with the US administration to express GCC views on the matter.
Third, the summit’s instruction about regional and international partnerships could not be clearer — that they should be deepened and expanded. Immediately after the summit, a large GCC delegation was dispatched to London for three days of intensive discussions to implement previously agreed plans on GCC-UK strategic partnership in fighting terrorism, cybersecurity and cooperation in resolving regional crises. Other engagements with regional and international partners are being planned for 2018. Kuwait’s presidency has expressed its determination to push forward with cementing relations with all GCC partners during its term in 2018.
• The author is a columnist for Arab News. He can be reached by email: [email protected] Twitter: @abuhamad1
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