GCC economic union under spotlight at Manama summit



P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR

Published — Monday 24 December 2012

Last update 24 December 2012 9:06 pm

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JEDDAH: GCC leaders will assemble in Manama today for a landmark summit to discuss major regional and international issues and strengthen economic and military cooperation among the six-member group.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal expressed concerns over Iran’s interference in GCC’s internal affairs, accusing Tehran of “taking advantage of the situation to instigate sedition.”

He hoped the summit would be successful in taking important decisions. “Every GCC summit has something new, and we seek accomplishing great things during this summit,” the Saudi minister said.

Prince Saud was talking to reporters after attending a GCC foreign ministers meeting in Manama yesterday to finalize the summit’s agenda.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told Qatari daily Al-Sharq that the summit would cover several areas including military cooperation, environmental protection and accelerating the steps leading to economic unity.

“The situation in Syria will also be among the main topics,” the minister said. The GCC countries must complete all defensive and preventive measures against any threat, whether it was from military or environment, he pointed out.
The minister underlined the fact that economic integration would receive great attention and that the GCC countries must strive to form an integrated economic unit, which was the basis for the real unity in the future.
Foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE met in Manama yesterday to finalize the summit’s agenda. Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal led the Saudi delegation to the meeting.
In a related development, Bahrain’s Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa said the process of joint GCC cooperation is moving in the right direction toward further strengthened security and economic integration.
Speaking to Al-Bayan newspaper, he emphasized the need for stronger cooperation and integration among the GCC states in a way that would achieve mutual interests and benefits, especially in the security field.
"Our people are looking forward to more achievements, especially in light of ongoing regional and global developments "he said.
He went on to urge further efforts aimed at greater efficiency to the common business strategy of the GCC countries in light of regional and international challenges meant to consequently meet aspirations of the peoples of the region and build on the GCC's political, economic and social achievements.
He called the GCC leaders to develop new ideas that would accelerate progress toward meeting common goals and a better future for the region.
“We are in a new era where the world is being controlled by conflicting and clear strategic interests, in light of which it has become binding for the GCC to act more effectively as a unified entity,” the prime minister said.
“What concerns us, first and foremost, is security and stability of the region and that we speak with one voice and we are a key player with respect to current affairs of the region. We also have to put multiple and stronger mechanisms to protect our interests and maintain the Gulf’s longstanding nature as secure and stable hub.”
Responding to a question on whether the Manama GCC Summit is going to witness the official birth of "Gulf Union", he said that initiative made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, calling for moving from the stage of "Cooperation" into "Union" had come to meet the GCC’s aspirations to strengthen its unity, which was, and still is, and will remain, the ultimate goal behind the establishment of this council.
Meanwhile, Saudi Economy and Planning Minister Muhammad Al-Jasser highlighted the economic dimensions of GCC Union. “King Abdullah’s proposal to transform GCC into a union is essential in the light of regional and global developments and changes in order to protect GCC and make greater achievements,” the minister said.
He said an integrated GCC would be able to deal with global economic groups with greater strength and efficiency to protect the interests of member countries. He called the GCC states to establish joint investment projects and channeling their investments to member countries, especially in industry, housing and stock markets.
GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani said the Manama Summit would discuss all the current issues in the region, including the Syrian crisis, supporting the Syrian people, achieving their aspirations, supporting Yemen to get out of its crisis, and the Iranian interference.
“The summit will discuss a lot of issues to bolster joint defense and security,” the GCC chief said. The summit leaders will also take up issues such as water security and water connectivity between GCC states.
About the Iranian issue and the relation with Tehran, Al Zayani said the GCC rejects Iran’s occupation of the UAE islands and demands resolution of the issue in a peaceful manner. “We also reject Iranian interference in the internal affairs of any GCC state.”

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