Nizar Madani, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said: “This has become an urgent need imposed by the immense economic, strategic and political importance of the Arab Gulf region which has brought to its member states many dangers and problems.”
Madani was speaking at the annual Regional Security Summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think-tank, in the Bahraini capital of Manama.
The minister warned that the six member states of the organization faced a number of growing threats, which “imposes [a need] on the GCC states to seek integration and union, with the aim of maintaining their gains and achievements and ward off risks and threats.”
The GCC is comprised of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait. It was founded in 1981 in order to strengthen economic, military, and political ties between the Gulf monarchies.
To date, the results of attempts to promote deeper integration between the organization’s member states have been mixed, with a project to create a single currency by 2010 foundering over disagreements over where the new central bank for the region would be located.
However, recent instability in the region, and fears among the Gulf Arab states of a decline in the influence of the US in the Middle East, has brought the issue of deeper integration back onto the agenda.
Madani also addressed the issue of negotiations between world powers and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear program, and the nuclear deal struck in Geneva.
Madani said that Saudi Arabia was waiting to see what the final outcome of the deal will be, but that an agreement which prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons will be in the interest of the entire region.
Regarding the GCC’s relations with Iran and the recent signs of détente with the international community, Madani said that the GCC has shown willingness to open communication channels with Iran, and will continue to do so.
He also said that to be sustained, this needed to be reciprocated by Tehran, saying that Iran should take “tangible steps towards improving relations,” and that better relations needed to be “based on mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of our countries.”