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GCC leaders back King Abdullah’s call for Gulf union | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – The proposal for the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] to move from a phase of cooperation into a phase of union, heralding a new era of Gulf cooperation and collaboration, figured prominently in the final communique issued by the GCC, and the statements of GCC officials and leaders, following the conclusion of the 32nd GCC Summit in Riyadh.

The GCC final communique revealed that “the leaders have given directories to the Ministerial Council to form a specialized body by selecting three members from each country. The body will be mandated to study the proposal [to form a union] in light of the views exchanged by leaders. The meeting of the Board will be held at the headquarters of the General Secretariat. The member states shall designate their respective representatives no later than 1 February, 2012. The Board will present a preliminary report in March to the Ministerial Council at its first session in 2012 in preparation for raising this to the heads of the GCC states.”

At the conclusion of the 32nd GCC Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal held a joint-press conference with GCC Secretary-General Dr. Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al-Zayyani at the al-Diriya Palace’s Media Center, during which he discussed the outcome of the GCC summit, including the call made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, for a Gulf union.

At the beginning of the news conference, the Saudi Foreign Minister once again welcomed – on behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, and the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the GCC leaders and accompanying delegations, as well as the press and media organizations, to Saudi Arabia.

He highlighted the decisions included in the final communiqué [of the 32nd GCC Summit] reflecting the friendly and fraternal atmosphere that prevailed in the meetings of the leaders, who were transparent in their dealing of the various issues listed on their agenda.

Prince Saud al-Faisal stressed that these decisions demonstrated that the GCC leadership is aware of its responsibilities during this current phase, with regards to all the changes and challenges that are occurring in the region. He also reiterated the GCC’s resolve and determination to confront this through the establishment of a policy entitled ‘One Hand Builds, One Hand Protects.’

The Saudi Foreign Minister said that one of the most striking results of the GCC summit was the welcome and acceptance of the proposal contained in the opening speech of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, on the part of the GCC leaders. King Abdullah had called for the GCC member states to move from a stage of cooperation to one of union during his speech opening the 32nd GCC summit in Riyadh.

In his speech, the Saudi monarch stressed that “our summit opens in the shadow of challenges that require vigilance and a united stance” adding “we do not accept this situation for our nations, peoples, stability, and security, therefore I ask today what we move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity which achieves good and wards off evil.”

The Saudi Foreign Minister affirmed that the creation of such a “union within a single entity” would advance the goals and objectives of the GCC member states, in line with the GCC Charter.

Kuwait Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah on Tuesday said that GCC leaders listened with great interest to the speech made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, at the opening of the 32nd GCC summit. He told the official Kuwaiti news agency KUNA that King Abdullah’s call came out of the realization of the importance of the current stage “that we are all enduring, as well as the scale of the challenges that we face”.

Whilst the Qatari cabinet praised the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s initiative calling for the formation of a Gulf union, asserting that King Abdullah’s wisdom contributed to the success of the GCC summit and the positive outcomes it reached.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmed al-Khalifa welcomed King Abdullah’s proposal, and stressed that his country would extend all support to make the Gulf Union a reality. He said “GCC citizens are looking forward to greater unity and cooperation among their countries, based on justice, in order to boost their progress and prosperity, as well as bolster their security and stability.” He stressed that a Gulf union would act as a “strong shield” to confront all threats and challenges.

Prince Saud al-Faisal also asserted that the meetings of the GCC leaders are always designed to better serve Gulf issues, and to carry love and peace to the Arab and Islamic nations whilst building friendly relations and mutual respect with all regional and international powers. He also reaffirmed the commitment to the common interests, security and peace of the GCC member states as well as to international security and peace under the umbrella of international law and its legitimate principles.

For his part, GCC Secretary-General Dr. Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al-Zayyani pointed out that the GCC Supreme Council had approved a number of decisions and draft laws. This includes a Gulf plan to fight non-infectious diseases, the regulation of the consultative commission of the Supreme Council and its internal regulation, along with a draft law allowing GCC citizens to use smart cards as identity cards in their transactions, in both the public and private sectors. He also drew attention to draft laws for unified listing rules in stock exchanges, customs tariffs in the GCC member states, public prosecution apparatus, and the establishment of a commission for a Customs Union.

Following this, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and GCC Secretary-General Dr. Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al-Zayyani responded to questions from the press.

Prince Saud al-Faisal reaffirmed that the talks between the leaders of the GCC member states had focused on their mutual cooperation and had tackled various issues; he added that the GCC session was convened in a transparent, frank and sincere atmosphere. The viewpoints were, he also stated, either typical or almost identical, on many issues.

Responding to a question as to the issue of what form Gulf diplomatic ties with the rest of the world will take under such a union, Prince Saud al-Faisal described this step as a “qualitative move of cooperation”, pointing to the well-known safeguards and terms of such a union, particularly as the accords binding GCC member states embody “minimal cooperation” when compared to this. He also stated that “this, in itself, is necessary for the current stage and essential for cohesion, for we should stand united, particularly during confrontation’.

Prince Saud al-Faisal also stressed that able GCC member states will provide aid to Egypt, saying “there are negotiations on some points, but direct aid for direct use has been paid.”

He added: “As for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it continued providing what Egypt needed for several months. This is not strange because Egypt is the heart of the Arab world, and the largest and most important country in the Arab world. Despite its problems, Egypt is doing its duty at all stages, including its recent role in the inter-Palestinian reconciliation, which it sponsored.”

Speaking during the press conference held following the conclusion of the 32nd GCC Summit, Prince Saud al-Faisal also said: “I think the [Gulf] union will help bring together all the capabilities and potential of the six GCC member states. Instead of the current scattered diplomatic activity, the union will lead to one line and have greater impact in both the medium and long term.’

Responding to a question on the contents of the Arab initiative towards Syria, Prince Saud al-Faisal stated: “The Arab initiative calls for a cessation to hostilities, as well as the withdrawal of the military and the release of prisoners. It also calls for a reconciliation meeting under the umbrella of the Arab League in order to avoid a civil war breaking out in a brotherly country like Syria. Arab states as a whole do not harbour evil towards Syria, and nor do they want any of the Syrian people to be harmed in any way’.

Prince Saud al-Faisal added “the aim of the Arab League intervention was to have Arab issues solved by Arabs. We did not find the foreign solutions to be correct in many cases. It is proven by experience that solutions from abroad do not understand our problems, and therefore an Arab solution is best for the case in Syria. The issue will be transferred to international organizations by Syria itself, not by us. If Syria rejects the Arab solution, then a substitute proposal has already been submitted to the Security Council by Russia.’

Prince Saud al-Faisal expressed hope that the Syrians would listen to the advice of their fellow Arabs and respond to the Arab initiative, particularly after they signed the Arab protocol yesterday, which the Saudi Foreign Minister described as the first step towards implementing the initiative.

On Iran, the Saudi Foreign Minister said that Iran was a neighbouring country which enjoys culture and potential, and that he hopes that Tehran’s relations with the GCC member states improves, adding that Saudi Arabia is prepared to negotiate with Iran in this regard.

However the final statement issued following the end of the GCC annual summit in Riyadh called on Iran to “stop these policies and practices…and stop interfering in the internal affairs of the Gulf nations.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal added “the manoeuvres they [Iranians] are carrying out in the territorial waters of other Gulf States do not reflect good will; however, if they are acting in good will, we would not step back.” He also warned “if they take a step forward, we will take two steps forward” but added “we do not like to commit aggression against the interests of other states, we do not harbour any evil towards Iran, for evil is not part of our politics; rather it is part of the politics pursued by Iran”

The final communique of the 32nd GCC summit stressed that the “the [GCC] Supreme Council expressed deep concern about the continuation of the Iranian interference in the internal affairs of the GCC states, and its endeavour to sow dissent and inflame sectarian strife among their citizens in violation of their sovereignty and independence.”

It added “the [GCC] Supreme Council demanded Iran to desist from such policies and practices; fully comply with the principles of good neighbourliness, mutual respect, international customs, laws and conventions, and non-interference in the internal affairs [of other states]; solve disputes via peaceful means and direct dialogue; and not to use or threaten to use force so that security and stability in the region can prevail.”

Prince Saud al-Faisal also called for stability in Iraq, and for Iraqi citizens to be treated equally and indiscriminately; he also expressed his hope that Iraq would return to its position as a contributing factor towards the stability and security of the Arab world.

On the recent visit carried out by Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during which he met Saudi Crown Prince Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said “they might be more confidence of making achievements on an intelligence level, than on a diplomatic level.” He added “in any case, we are ready to negotiate at any level. One negotiates with one’s enemy, let alone with one’s neighbours.”

Commenting on the foiled assassination plot on the Saudi ambassador to the United States a few months ago, Prince Saud Al-Faisal confirmed that his Ministry had filed a detailed complaint to the United Nations. He strongly condemned the assassination plot, saying that under Islamic traditions “a diplomat is more honoured than a son.” He added “in our case, where there is an attempt on the life of a Saudi diplomat, the culprits have violated the sanctity of two nations, the host nation and the nation of the guest.”

Speaking about the Gulf union, he said that some of the important points include the need for rapprochement between youths in the fields of education, scouts and unification of educational curricula in different subjects, spearheaded by history.

“A youth who belongs to any one of our countries should be taught that we share the same history” and that “whoever moves in our region would receive the same treatment.”

He also confirmed that a contingent plan to extend $10 billion of financial support to Bahrain and Oman had also been endorsed and that the issue was moving forward.