Gulf union to top summit agenda

GCC foreign ministers meet in Riyadh Sunday to draw up the summit agenda. (SPA)

By RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN ARAB NEWS STAFF

Published: May 13, 2012 23:57 Updated: May 13, 2012 23:57

Foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met here yesterday to draw up the agenda for the consultative meeting of the GCC heads of state.

“The GCC foreign ministers primarily reviewed the preparations for the GCC leaders’ meeting to be held in the Saudi capital today,” said Saleem S. A. Al-Alwi, a spokesman of the GCC General Secretariat.

“The GCC foreign ministers held discussions to formulate a consensus opinion on a range of key regional issues,” said Al-Alwi. The ministerial meeting to be followed by the high-profile meeting of the GCC leaders is very important keeping in view the move to create a European Union style “Gulf Union,” supported already by some Gulf states. Bahrain is one of the strongest supporters.

Bahrain said that Gulf Arab leaders were ready for closer ties on security and foreign policy issues to confront pressures such as uprisings in some Arab states and tensions with Iran. The GCC leaders are scheduled to meet with a mission to examine ideas for a greater union. Proposals have included more open borders and a regional defense force. Bahrain’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, said yesterday that he expects union plans to move ahead.

The GCC ministerial meeting chaired by Prince Saud Al-Faisal was attended by Sheikh Sabah Khalid A. Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs; Anwar Mohammed Qerqash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs; Yousef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Omani minister responsible for foreign affairs; Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Bahraini minister of foreign affairs; and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem J. Al-Thani, Qatari prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

Referring to the ministerial meeting, GCC Secretary-General Abdullateef Al-Zayani said the foreign ministers reviewed a number of reports and plans also with an aim to boost cooperation and unify policies as well as legislation among member states. The ministers also reviewed regional, Arab and international developments that concern the GCC as s bloc, he added. There are also issues like aid to some neighboring countries and the GCC railway network.

However, a report of a specialist committee entrusted with the task to study the proposal of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to shift the GCC toward a single union will top the agenda of the GCC leaders’ meeting today.

“It was also discussed by the GCC foreign ministers yesterday,” said a GCC official on the condition of anonymity. The decision to set up a Gulf Union is part of a strategy to increase integration within the GCC.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might initially seek closer union as both share similar concerns, said a Bahraini official. The idea of the GCC nations to integrate into one entity was first floated by Saudi Arabia in December last year. Today’s meeting will lay out the timetable for it, said the official.

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