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Amir stresses GCC unity amid strife

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Oman commends Amir’s speech

In this photo released by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, leaders from the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Dec 9. Leaders of Gulf Arab countries, including those boycotting Qatar, met on Sunday in Saudi Arabia’s capital for a regional summit, a gathering that Qatar’s ruling Amir choose not to attend amid the dispute. (AP)

RIYADH, Dec 9, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said on Sunday that “malicious media campaigns” will never succeed in unraveling the impenetrable bond shared by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Such efforts would be rendered futile given the bloc’s unyielding determination to remain united, he said amid annual talks bringing together leaders from across the Gulf region. As the 39th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit kicked off in the Saudi capital, His Highness the Amir thanked the host nation for organizing the meeting.

This year’s gathering holds much significance given the mounting challenges facing the Gulf region, His Highness the Amir said in his speech, pointing out that the talks come after a spate of ministerial-level meetings held throughout the year. “We are cognizant of the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead, chief among them the lingering diplomatic crisis, which only behooves us to remain united and work as a cohesive unit,” His Highness the Amir went on to say.

On other perennial concerns, he said terrorism continues to be a grave threat, urging the international community to do everything in its power to rid the world of the scourge. His Highness the Amir also spoke of “humanitarian disasters” that are unfolding around the region, naming Yemen and Iraq as examples, hoping for definitive solutions to these conflicts.

Regarding Iraq, His Highness the Amir congratulated Baghdad on a successful political transition, wishing the war-torn nation the best of luck as it begins the reconstruction process.

His Highness the Amir called for an early resumption of peace talks, hoping that a comprehensive and permanent deal would be reached according to relevant international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. Concerning Iran, His Highness the Amir reiterated that relations with Iran are based on UN principles, mainly noninterference in states’ internal affairs, respect of their sovereignty and commitment to good neighborliness rules.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said on Sunday that it was imperative to protect the very essence of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), amid talks bringing together leaders of the bloc’s member states. The GCC aims to ensure a highly secure and prosperous Gulf region, he said as the 39th GCC summit kicked off in the Saudi capital, pointing out that the bloc has been blessed with the capabilities needed to ascend to global prominence.

The Saudi king thanked His Highness the Amir for his role as the chair of last year’s talks, giving the GCC secretary general equal credit for his efforts to organize the annual gathering. In Kuwait, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al- Hamad Al-Sabah commended a speech delivered by His Highness the Amir at a GCC summit in Riyadh on Sunday. Sheikh Jaber said in a press statement the speech is a sincere call for restoring the Gulf bloc’s previous spirit, and stresses his keenness on the Gulf entity and its unity.

His Highness the Amir addressed the 39th summit earlier in the day by underlining his support to, and keenness on, the GCC, along with his unremitting effort to maintain it. Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister for Cabinet Affairs Fahad Al-Said on Sunday applauded His Highness the Amir’s speech during a Gulf summit in Riyadh as an “example”.

Addressing the 39th GCC gathering held Sunday, Al-Said said His Highness the Amir’s address reflected the actual reality. He also voiced thanks and appreciation to the Saudi King for hosting the annual Gulf event. GCC Secretary-General Abdul- Latif Al-Zayani expressed gratitude and appreciation to His Highness the Amir for his distinguished presidency of the 38th summit held in Kuwait last year.

His Highness the Amir’s presidency was marked by much wisdom and interest in joint Gulf action, he said, adding that Kuwait had exerted a great effort to promote the bloc and safeguard its assets. This year’s gathering comes amid critical regional conditions and challenges that necessitate more solidarity among the GCC member states and more efforts to bolster coordination and integration, he noted. The GCC chief, further, spoke highly of the major GCC accomplishments as the fruit of the leaders’ efforts. Leaders of Gulf Arab countries, including those boycotting Qatar, met on Sunday in Saudi Arabia’s capital for a regional summit, a gathering that Qatar’s ruling Amir choose not to attend amid the dispute. The absence of Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as well as Qatar’s recent decision to withdraw from the Saudi-dominated OPEC oil cartel, underlined the simmering crisis facing the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Despite mediation efforts by Kuwait, the gap remains between others in the six-nation GCC, an alliance formed in 1981 in part to offer a counterbalance to Iran, and Qatar – countries that are all American allies. The United States, which under President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, also has been unable to mend relations even as it wants a unified front for its high-pressure campaign targeting Tehran.

Saudi King Salman greeted GCC leaders Sunday as they descended down a golden escalator at a Riyadh air base and never mentioned Qatar in his remarks to the summit. The king instead spoke about the need to counter Iran, as well as the Kingdom’s ongoing war in Yemen. “Extremist and terrorist powers continue to threaten our security in the Gulf and in the Arab world,” the king said. “The Iranian regime is continuing its hostile policies and continues to intervene in other nations’ internal affairs.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later tweeted that the “region has had far too many strongmen who have only caused war & misery.” “What we need is a stronger REGION rather than strongmen,” Zarif wrote, apparently in response to the GCC meeting.

King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sat prominently behind his father during the summit. Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim sent Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, to represent the country. Al-Muraikhi offered no comments during the open session of the GCC meeting. The sheikh had attended last year’s GCC meeting in Kuwait, where nations boycotting Qatar sent lower-level representatives. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa tweeted that Sheikh Tamim should have “been there at the summit.”

In June 2017, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties to Qatar. They also launched an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing the country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports.

They say the crisis stems from Qatar’s support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. The four nations also have pointed to Qatar’s close relationship with Iran. Qatar restored full diplomatic ties to Iran amid the dispute. Qatar’s natural gas reserves have made the Arabian Peninsula country fantastically wealthy, sparking its successful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar also hosts the al-Udeid Air Base, the home of the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command and about 10,000 US troops.

The US deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Gulf affairs, Timothy Lenderking, said Washington wants to see Gulf unity and ties with Qatar repaired soon. “GCC unity’s been a really important pillar for US engagement with this region, with the Gulf, with the Middle East. We’d like to see that unity restored,” he said on the sideline of a security summit on Yemen in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. “It’s important not only for the GCC to be a strong bulwark against Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula but also to allow us to capitalize on economic linkages that can add development to the region and that can help the countries bind together,” he said.

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