HH the Amir at the Gulf Summit
Summit spotlights security, economy Gulf talks open with call for unity

MANAMA, Dec 24: The annual summit of Arab states in the Gulf opened in Manama on Monday with a call for closer economic integration and unity in the face of the turmoil which has swept much of the Middle East.
King Hamad of host country Bahrain called for the Gulf Cooperation Council to provide “a security umbrella for its peoples” and urged “economic complementarity” between its six member states. In his address to GCC counterparts, Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, standing in for King Abdullah who stayed away for health reasons, delivered an appeal for unity. “We aspire to a strong union with integrated economies, a joint foreign policy and a common defence system,” he said.

HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Amir, called for humanitarian aid for Syrian civilians and urged Iran to reach a peaceful settlement with neighbours, including over three Gulf islands in dispute with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He announced a donor conference for civilians caught up in the Syrian conflict to be held at the end of January at the request of the United Nations. The two-day summit is to focus on strengthening “Gulf unity... especially politically, economically, in defence, security and culturally,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said on Sunday. The meeting is also expected to discuss the conflict roiling Syria and the situation in Yemen.

However, four of the six heads of state will not attend the annual gathering, which takes place in the wake of last year’s Arab Spring uprisings which swept several Arab states but not the Gulf states.
Diplomatic sources with close ties to the meetings held today told Arab Times reporter, as was affirmed by their statements, that the leaders directly addressed the attempt to subdue any threats facing the region, and the means by which the risk of such threats can be decreased. In addition, they will address the enhancement of defense forces through similar organizations, in an attempt to facilitate organization between the states.
The Gulf leaders will also discuss the trajectory of Iranian-Gulf relations, in light of the current circumstances. In particular the leaders looked towards Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs, and the dangers posed on the region from Boushahr station, should an accident occur, and its effects in the region, calling upon Iran to cooperate transparently with the IAEA. In addition, they request the ceasing of Iranian involvement in internal affairs of the GCC states.

The overall gross domestic product in 2011 of the GCC states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia — amounted to $1.37 trillion, a diplomatic source said.
In 2003, they launched a symbolic customs union which has been beset with problems, failing to meet its target date of 2005, with the transition period systematically extended to 2015.
And a monetary union announced in 2009 with the aim of creating a common currency has also failed to materialise, with just four nations — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — signing up to it.
The six will also discuss plans to expand a security treaty they signed in 1994 with the aim of increasing security cooperation in the face of the Arab uprisings, sources said.
“The summit is taking place under extremely sensitive and delicate circumstances, whose impact (on Gulf states) must be studied,” said the GCC secretary general, Abdellatif Zayani, ahead of the meeting.
Rights activists called on the GCC leaders to introduce democratic reforms, in an open letter to the summit on Monday.

“It appears the events in the past two years,” especially “aspirations for an effective popular participation... and creating constitutional monarchies,” are not on the summit agenda, said the Gulf Forum of Civil Societies said.
Bahrain is still trying to cope with a Shiite-led uprising it crushed last year with the backing of Gulf troops, while a Kuwaiti political crisis has seen the opposition stage protests against an amendment to the electoral law.
The Shiite opposition in Sunni-ruled Bahrain has called on the summit “to exert pressure on Bahraini leaders to find a solution to the crisis,” according to one of its leaders.
Witnesses said police on Monday dispersed Shiite demonstrators near Manama, not far from where the summit is being held in the south of the country.

Addressing the 33rd Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit, HH the Amir said the donor conference, suggested by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is mainly intended to provide help and support for the Syrian people.
He believed that Gulf support for, and participation in, the January conference will be a crucial factor for easing out the suffering of the Syrian people.
Hailing the recently created national coalition of Syrian opposition and revolutionary groups and movements, HH the Amir said the largely recognized coalition will be surely a significant step towards enabling the Syrians to unify their ranks and to fulfill their legitimate expectations and hopes.
But, he regretted that indications show the Syrian crisis seems not to come to an end soon in spite of regional and international efforts to halt bloodshed and violence in this Arab country.
HH the Amir said the GCC gathering in Bahrain comes amid exceptional circumstances and rapid changes taking place in the whole world in general and the Middle East in particular.

Such changes require continuous consultation and reflect the importance of this meeting to review steps and moves to address those circumstances in order to fortify communities from relevant perils and to meet the aspirations of the Gulf people in view of security, stability and prosperity, HH the Amir emphasized.
Sheikh Sabah spoke highly of the recent UN recognition of Palestine as an observer state as a diplomatic success that ought to be used to urge the international community, the UN Security Council and the Middle East peace quartet to live up to their historic responsibilities by pressuring Israel to accept peace and recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, including an independent state.
He added that the recent Israeli aggression on Gaza and its devastating effects show that the Middle East region would not have security or peace unless the Palestinian people regained their full legitimate rights.
On Iran, HH the Amir urged Tehran to respond to calls for putting an end to outstanding issues with the GCC member states, mainly the three occupied Island of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and continental shelf issue, through face-to-face dialogue or international arbitration.

He also urged Iran to fulfill IAEA requirements and to comply with international efforts to spare the peoples of Iran and other regional countries the causes of tension and instability. Regional concerns over a reported technical problem in Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant show that Iran should work with the IAEA and to meet its requirements. Finally, HH the Amir thanked GCC Secretary-General Abdul-Latif Al-Zayani and the GCC Secretariat for their great efforts to ensure the success of the gathering, and appreciated Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Bahraini people for their hospitality.

By: Joana Saba

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