Manama- The 37th session of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit has kicked off in Bahrain on Tuesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May attending the key regional conference as an honor guest.
Key issues like regional security, combating terrorism, potential challenges in the Gulf region and bolstering pan-GCC integration and joint action to further enhance regional cooperation are likely to be the main topics.
“I will have the opportunity to talk to all six leaders about how we can develop our trade relationship, as well as cooperation on security and defense,” May said ahead of her arrival in the Bahraini capital Manama late on Monday.
“As the UK leaves the EU, we should seize the opportunity to forge a new trade arrangement between the UK and the Gulf,” May said.
“I hope my visit will herald the start of a new chapter on relations between the United Kingdom and the Gulf states, a true strategic partnership that enables us to together seize the opportunities ahead and ensure the security and prosperity of our people,” May was quoted as saying.
In a statement, UK government spokesperson Edwin Samuel said that May’s decision to make her first regional visit to the GCC and take part in the 37th GCC summit sends a strong message that the United Kingdom has not withdrawn from the world, particularly the Gulf region.
“It proves that the UK will strengthen relations with its allies and partners,” the statement said.
May is the first British leader and the first woman to attend a GCC summit.
For his part, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdullatif al-Zayani stressed that the summit is an opportunity for leaders of the GCC countries to hold consultations and exchange opinions about the ongoing events and developments in the region.
Al-Zayani said that the rapid developments witnessed by the region require more coordination, consultation and integration among GCC countries, in order to protect its achievements and prosperity.
He noted that the GCC countries seek to genuinely contribute to the efforts to find peaceful political solutions to all regional crises and mitigate their repercussions, adding that the consequences of the crises will not only affect GCC states but will also affect regional and international security and peace.
Regarding the GCC economy, al-Zayani said that the achievements in this important area prove that the GCC common market, which was established in 2008, was an excellent move that benefited all.
He noted that the Economic and Development Affairs Authority and the Judicial Economic Authority will play prominent roles in consolidating economic cooperation and integration among GCC countries and will boost GCC citizens’ gains from the common market.
Regarding interventions in the internal affairs of the GCC, the Secretary-General said the GCC states are aware of the objectives of those seeking to interfere in their internal affairs, which are to destabilize their stability and undermine their cohesion and solidarity.
He added that the security cooperation among the GCC countries is the way to meet this challenge and thwart its objectives.
He warned that terrorism is an alien phenomenon “to our peaceful societies and contrary to our tolerant Islamic faith.”