Security, strategic ties top agenda at 42nd GCC summit in Riyadh

Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the 42nd GCC Summit meeting in Riyadh. (SPA)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the 42nd GCC Summit meeting in Riyadh. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Special Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Updated 15 December 2021

Security, strategic ties top agenda at 42nd GCC summit in Riyadh

Security, strategic ties top agenda at 42nd GCC summit in Riyadh
  • The GCC maintains security and stability in Gulf region while supporting and serving Arab and Islamic causes 
  • Ahead of the summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited all member states, strengthening ties 

RIYADH: Speaking at the conclusion of the 42nd GCC Summit on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the alliance would continue to play a role in strengthening security and stability in the Middle East region.

“We are looking forward today to building a prosperous economic bloc, and this requires creating a stimulating environment that depends on diversifying sources of income,” the crown prince said.

The final communique, read by Nayef Al-Hajraf, the GCC general-secretary, said further teamwork would be necessary to meet future challenges and highlighted the importance of strengthening opportunities for women and young people and for digital transformation in the GCC countries.

“The leaders agreed on principles and policies to develop strategic cooperation and economic development integration among the GCC states, and to achieve the aspirations of their citizens,” Al-Hajraf said.

Regional security and strategic relationships were uppermost in the minds of Gulf leaders as they completed last-minute preparations for the 42nd annual GCC summit, chaired by King Salman in the Saudi capital on Dec. 14.

Saudi Arabia presided over the summit, which came in the wake of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s tour of the Gulf states last week. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said earlier that the summit comes at a delicate and sensitive time. The region’s security will be a key item on the agenda.

The summit is held every year to discuss integration and interdependence between the Gulf states in the economic, commercial, educational and cultural fields to enhance their development.

On Feb. 9, 1981, during the first session of the GCC summit, foreign ministers signed a document establishing the Gulf Cooperation Council, which included six Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the UAE. It is considered one of the most successful regional groupings focusing on future goals.




Six gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, formed the GCC in 1981 to strengthen political and economic ties and common security through diplomatic cooperation. (Credit: Deutsch Federal Foreign Office)

“The GCC was established to promote security, stability, development, prosperity and wellbeing for the citizens of the Gulf countries. They are our basic wealth, and through them, they achieve our visions and hopes,” said King Salman.

In numbers, the GCC has managed to unify 68 Gulf laws and regulations, and 116 indicative Gulf laws and regulations. It has also established 42 joint Gulf institutions in technology and economic cooperation, and 26 Gulf organizations operating under the umbrella of the GCC. It has also agreed on 17 joint development agreements and strategies.

“Gulf countries always seek to enhance coordination and cooperation, and exchange experiences in all fields,” the Saudi Ambassador to Oman, Abdullah Al-Anzi, told Arab News. 

In the past 40 years, the GCC has held 41 annual summits, four exceptional summits, 17 consultative summits and five joint summits.

GCC countries are at the top of the list of the 30 safest countries in the world amid the global pandemic.

“What has been achieved throughout the history of the GCC gives us pride,” UAE President Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said.

“We believe that the affection and cooperation that unites our countries and peoples are enough to increase the solidity of the Gulf countries as one in a time that does not show mercy to the divided or the weak,” he added.

Social conditions have also received the attention of GCC leaders. During the 23rd GCC summit in Doha in 2002, leaders presented their views on empowering women in GCC countries, and confirming their economic, social and family roles.




The GCC established the Peninsula Shield Force in 1984 to deter and respond to aggression against member states. In 2011, it deployed 10,000 troops to Bahrain to contain an uprising and support the Bahraini leadership. (SPA)

Since the GCC’s establishment, it has achieved gains in various fields. Talks have focused on the need to enhance women’s participation, support their role, and enable them to participate effectively and influence society’s development, as well as be part of leadership positions and the decision-making process, emphasizing Islamic and Arab values and principles.

The GCC supported several activities in the cultural field that include visual arts, narration, poetry, cinema, theater, music, heritage and creativity.

In terms of political cooperation, the coordination of foreign policy is one of the essential aspects of the GCC’s work. This is based on several principles, including being a good neighbor; non-interference in internal affairs; mutual respect for the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of states; and adopting the principle of peaceful dialogue as a means of settling disputes.

“The GCC, in light of the remarkable integration it has reached, is no longer a tool for enhancing the gains of our peoples only but has become a regional edifice that initiates the establishment of regional and international security and peace through its effective role in developing solutions and political initiatives for the countries of the region’s crises,” Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa has said.

Practically, it can be said that the GCC has managed to achieve many successes in foreign policy that contributed to maintaining security and stability in the Gulf region and supporting and serving Arab and Islamic causes.

Among the most important were the liberation of Kuwait, support for the Palestinian cause, as well as support for the stability and sovereignty of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Libya.

Military cooperation between the Gulf countries has been characterized by intense work in building and developing defense and security forces. Cooperation has developed qualitatively and quantitatively since the formation of the council.

“We will continue with our brothers, the leaders of the GCC countries, to contribute to advancing the process of cooperation between our countries to achieve the hopes of our peoples, and to push the achievements of the GCC forward,” Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said said.




At the 1998 GCC summit in Abu Dhabi (L), members agreed to hold semi-annual consultative meetings between summits to further enhance cooperation. At a consultative meeting in Kuwait in 2004 (R), the interior ministers of all six states signed a counterterrorism pact to boost intelligence sharing and coordination between security agencies. (WAM/AFP)

The presence of joint military forces for the GCC states is one of the important foundations for establishing a joint defense system that aims to provide security to protect the GCC states, defend their independence, and protect their capabilities and gains.

In 1982, the Gulf states formed a joint military force, the Peninsula Shield Force, to deter and respond to military aggression against any GCC member countries.

Security cooperation during the course of the GCC has included the signing of many agreements, memoranda of understanding and cooperation, and letters of intent.

Several specialized committees and technical work teams have been formed in various fields of security coordination and cooperation, and many centers and missions have been established to support and enhance the process of Gulf security cooperation.

Unity is one of the main objectives of the GCC, and during the 41st summit (Sultan Qaboos and Sheikh Sabah Summit), the subject of common destiny was emphasized, with the signing of the AlUla declaration ending a Gulf dispute with Qatar. 

The AlUla declaration aims to enhance cohesion among member states, ensure the return of joint Gulf action to its normal course, and achieve the aspirations of the citizens of the GCC states in the face of any threat to any of the GCC states.

“The unity and integration of the GCC states, and the strengthening of consultation and cooperation among their leaders, are indispensable conditions for strengthening the security and stability of the region, as well as for achieving economic growth and cooperation in all fields, and this is the subject of the consensus of our peoples and society,” said Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. 




In Saudi Arabia’s northwestern city of AlUla in Jan. 2021, GCC members signed a special declaration agreeing to mend relations with Qatar and committing to stronger security cooperation. (Supplied)

The AlUla summit is considered one of the important events in the history of the GCC, after the restoration of relations between the countries.

The declaration “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood among our countries and peoples to serve their aspirations,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said earlier.

“I hope that together we can support our joint Gulf and Arab action to preserve our gains and achieve the hopes and aspirations of our peoples. I pray to the Almighty Allah to preserve our homelands and achieve wellbeing for our peoples,” Kuwait Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said.  

Ahead of the 42nd GCC summit, the Saudi crown prince visited all five GCC allies in the past week, one of the most important visits to strengthen the ties between the Kingdom and the Gulf countries.


US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
Updated 01 July 2022

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
  • They were visiting the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, the leader of which stressed the importance of communication and dialogue in building bridges between cultures

RIYADH: A visiting US delegation led by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Washington’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, was briefed this week on the work of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

After being welcomed to the center by its secretary-general, Abdullah Al-Fawzan, and other senior representatives, the delegates were given a brief presentation about its activities designed to promote and encourage greater tolerance among peoples.

They were also briefed on the results of the first study of its kind in the region on tolerance, carried out by the center to the highest scientific standards, which found that Saudi society is tolerant of other cultures and civilizations.

In greeting the visitors on Tuesday, Al-Fawzan stressed the importance of encouraging communication and dialogue between peoples, to help build bridges of understanding among cultures, as part of the efforts being made by the Kingdom, through its Saudi Vision 2030 development plan, to support tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence based on the principles of moderate Islam.

He said that Saudi society accepts and coexists with people from other societies and cultures, as evidenced by the large number of expatriates who live and work in the Kingdom. This shows that the values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and unity are not new concepts in the country, he added.

Since its inception, the center has placed great importance in promoting the values of citizenship among among all sections of society, making it a mainstay of its work, Al-Fawzan said.

The members of the US delegation were also given a tour of the center’s Interactive Dialogue Exhibition so that they could learn more about the Kingdom’s efforts to support communications between cultures and civilizations. They also heard about local projects developed by the center to help strengthen the nation’s social fabric, and its regional and global initiatives designed to help build and enhance cultural diversity and human commonalities.


Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference
Updated 30 June 2022

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

RIYADH: Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network, which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan, with the participation of several parliament speakers from NAM member states.

Al-Sheikh said in a press statement that the council’s participation in the conference is an affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s keenness to achieve security, peace and sustainable development globally.

Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Parliamentary Network of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Supplied)

The Kingdom’s participation also highlights its constructive partnership with other countries, the solutions it aims to provide to international crises and the humanitarian work it carries out, Al-Sheikh pointed out.

He stressed that international parliamentary conferences are essential in facing global challenges and achieving cooperation across borders.

The NAM Parliamentary Network was established on the sidelines of the 143rd General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Madrid. It aims to provide a framework for cooperation between the parliaments of NAM member states, with the participation of several other international organizations.


Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
Updated 30 June 2022

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
  • The pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards

MAKKAH: Residents of Makkah benefit financially during the Hajj as millions of people from all over the world converge on the holy city to perform the annual pilgrimage.  

But the pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards.  

Elaf Al-Mashaer, a local five-star hotel, is all set to welcome over 20,000 pilgrims this year, and the team has prepared the place to be as comfortable as possible to ensure a smooth stay for guests.

“We must know the number of guests who will stay in the hotel and their nationalities so that we can provide them with what they need,” hotel owner Abdulaziz Al-Sharbeeni told Arab News.

The 304-room establishment has several restaurants to cater to guests’ palates. “Each nationality has its own culture or a certain way of eating. We have Indian, Pakistani, East Asian, and Arabic restaurants.”

(Supplied)

It has also made modifications and preparations to make the rooms and suites accessible to people with disabilities.

“Some pilgrims come alone, so we give them a room on request, while others come with their families, so we give them a suite,” Al-Sharbeeni said. “There is a target we must achieve during the Hajj season as a facility, and the most important seasons in the year to achieve these financial goals are the Ramadan and Hajj seasons.”

The Hajj season attracts a large and diverse crowd, and everyone who visits Makkah enjoys shopping for gifts. They also use taxis, hospitals, restaurants, and other services and amenities, providing locals with many economic opportunities.

“I sell gold in the local market, and Hajj season is considered our opportunity to reach the target. So I’m more than happy that Hajj is back because we miss the pilgrims and we love interacting with them and welcoming them,” said Ahmed Al-Suliman.

Al-Suliman said there were more opportunities for work during the Hajj as significant manpower was required to serve, manage, and help with the influx of pilgrims.

“The people of Makkah, in particular, want to take advantage of the Hajj season. Young and old are working this season, and even if someone sells a bottle of water for SR1 ($0.27), he will earn a lot of money. You can apply for seasonal field jobs through the website of the Ministry of Hajj and the official platforms.”


Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
  • Guests will be assigned incognito to help evaluate Hajj services according to a pre-studied scientific methodology

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a performance initiative aimed at measuring pilgrims’ satisfaction at service provision during this year’s Hajj season.

Assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Hesham Saeed, signed a joint cooperation agreement with acting secretary-general of the coordination council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi, in relation to the program.

Al-Muwaihi said the monitoring scheme would involve measuring quality-of-service performance and beneficiary satisfaction, while also including an incognito guest program, all designed to improve and enrich worshippers’ spiritual experience.

Under the incognito initiative, Saeed said a designated guest would, “serve as a pilgrim under mission, who lives the full experience of Hajj, starting from the country of the pilgrim, passing through the holy sites, and performing the rituals until they return to their country.

“The assigned incognito guest will be living all the details, seeing what contact points they pass through, and will give an evaluation according to a pre-studied scientific methodology regarding the measurement criteria,” he added.

 

 

 


A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
Updated 30 June 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
  • Pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure

JEDDAH: A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, in line with the quotas allocated to each country and following recommendations from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The Hajj was limited to 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents from the Kingdom in 2021 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of pilgrims and others.

But, following Saudi Arabia's successful implementation of precautionary measures for Hajj and Umrah seasons during the pandemic, pilgrim capacity has been raised to 1 million.

This year's Hajj is for people aged 65 and under who must comply with the requirement to complete a COVID-19 vaccination program.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah tweeted that pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure for Saudi Arabia.

It said the shots required for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia included one for meningitis for people who had not been vaccinated in the past five years. They are also required to get the flu vaccine. Local pilgrims must take these vaccinations at least 10 days before going to the Hajj.

Figures from the General Authority of Statistics showed that, during the pandemic's peak in 2020, the number of pilgrims plummeted to just 1,000. The decision to restrict capacity was based on risk assessment and public health and safety concerns.  

There were almost 2.5 million pilgrims at the Hajj in 2019, and 1.9 million were from overseas.

The highest number of local and foreign Hajj pilgrims in the past decade was in 2012 when nearly 3.2 million people performed the annual pilgrimage. The lowest was 1.9 million in 2016.