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Bahrain minister denies claims on Gulf union

Gulf union is on GCC summit agenda but that does not mean that it will be announced, Ganem Al Bu Ainain says

Gulf News

Manama: A Bahraini minister said that his statement about a possible Gulf union comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states was misquoted and taken out of context.

“I never said that the Gulf union would be announced at the GCC summit that will be held in December in Bahrain,” Ganem Al Bu Ainain, Minister of Parliament Affairs, said.

“When I said that the Gulf union would be on the summit’s agenda, it must not be understood and it does not mean in any way that the union would be announced even if Oman does not join,” he said in a statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA) on Tuesday.

He added that Oman was invariably keen on carrying out the decisions of the GCC summits, which reflects its interest in achieving maximum integration in the GCC.

Earlier this week, Al Bu Ainain was quoted by the London-based Al Hayat daily as saying that the Gulf union could be launched without the participation of Oman, a founding member of the GCC in 1981 alongside Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Oman is the only member to have publicly said that it was not interested in joining the Gulf union.

“We are against a union. Our position is a positive one, not negative. We are against a union, but we will not prevent it,” Yousuf Bin Alawi, Oman’s Foreign Minister, said in December 2013 at a security conference in Manama

In his statement to Al Hayat, Al Bu Ainain was quoted as saying that “the position of Oman vis-a-vis the union is well known and respected, but this should not freeze us.

“There might be a Gulf union and a Gulf Cooperation Council for those interested in the formulas. However, the Gulf union, if it is established, will be much more advanced than the cooperation council. This means that the countries that join the union through political and economic measures will be in a more advanced status than those limited to cooperation.”

The minister noted that Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed is the only one from among the six founding leaders who signed the GCC charter who is still alive.

In December 2011, the then king of Saudi Arabia Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz called on the GCC states to move from the phase of cooperation to the phase of union within a single entity.

King Abdullah’s call at the GCC summit was welcomed by the six member states, but some of them requested more time to study the finer details.

Officials in Riyadh and Manama, in particular, have been openly enthusiastic about the union and Bahrain has often said that it is ready to join the union.

In the wake of the hesitation of some to upgrade the cooperative framework into a union, observers said that some of the member countries could set up a core union of two or more states and that the other members could join later at their own pace.

With Bahrain getting ready to host the summit in December, several officials and citizens of Gulf states argued that the union should be on the agenda.

Al Bu Ainain told Al Hayat that as the Bahraini member of the committee tasked with implementing GCC summit decisions, he sensed “great enthusiasm for the union from the other Gulf members”.

He added that the security drills held recently in Bahrain were a clear message from the GCC about their collective commitment.

“The target was Iran because we in the GCC have identified our current enemy and it is Iran. We do not create enemies, but their stances towards Bahrain and their interference in its domestic affairs are very clear and cannot be misunderstood. The GCC drills, a consolidation of the GCC common action started in Bahrain in 2011, were highly successful,” he said.