Manama: A suggested union between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is not likely to be on the summit agenda of leaders when they meet in Bahrain later this month.
“Some GCC countries have request some time for the sake of a deeper study of the issue,” Ganem Al Buainain, Bahrain’s state minister for foreign affairs, said in in remarks published in the Arabic daily Al Ayam on Thursday. “Therefore, the union will not be announced at the Bahrain summit. However, we must always remember that everything is possible in politics.”
Last December, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz told fellow GCC member countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE — it was time for the alliance established in 1981 in Abu Dhabi to move from the phase of cooperation to a Gulf union within a single entity.
The proposal was endorsed by the six member states, but while enthusiasm was high in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, other countries requested time for an in-depth study before making moves.
Bahrainis had hoped that the GCC advisory council in May in the Saudi capital would make an announcement about the launch of the union with a possibility of a fast track for Manama and Riyadh. However, hopes were dampened when the council said that more time was needed.
With news that the Manama summit would be held on December 24 and 25, popular speculation mounted again in Bahrain about a possible declaration of the start of the union.
This week, a Gulf conference bringing several civil groups in Manama stressed the need to move into a union “to help meet the dangers and security issues threatening the region.”
In September, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, said that “the leaders’ summit will build on the achievements accomplished at each of the past summits.”
“The Manama summit will continue the trend of achievements. When you look at the larger picture, you see that the GCC has never regressed and that it has always moved forward. Today’s GCC is different from what it was 10 or 20 years ago,” he said.
In his statement to Al Ayam, Al Buainain, a former lawmaker, said that the summit would review the latest international regional and political developments, with a particular focus on the situation in Syria.
“All issues to be discussed at the summit are interlinked,” he said. “We cannot separate security issues from economic or political issues. They are all equally significant. There can be no prosperous economy if there is no security or no stable political conditions.”
The state minister said that the GCC states worked closely on security matters.
“This is a group effort and there is Gulf coordination about addressing potential emergencies in the region,” he said in reference to media about security issues related to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant.
“The GCC countries have stated that they do not appreciate the existence of nuclear plants on the shores of the Gulf [even] if they are for peaceful purposes,” he said. “They do represent a threat to the people of the region if there is a leak. This threat is not confined to the GCC people, but also to the Iranians themselves living on the eastern shore of the Arabian Gulf. This matter does deserve greater attention,” he said.
In remarks over the human rights situation in Bahrain, Al Buainain said that the most formidable challenge was to address the “non-realistic view” by some organisations.
“They have formed an unrealistic picture based on the negative reports about Bahrain that they receive. What is needed is to fix this image by having the correct information form the right sources,” he said. “Bahrain does welcome any foreigners who genuinely seek the full truth from Bahraini citizens, and not just the government.”