Former Kuwaiti Shiite MP Saleh Ashour addresses the media at the National Assembly in Kuwait City on March 6, 2012 to announce that he filed a request to question the new prime minister in parliament over corruption allegations which led to the collapse of the last government and dissolution of the house. Image Credit: AFP

Manama: Kuwait’s parliamentary committee for foreign affairs on Thursday rejected the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security agreement.

Three of the five committee members said they opposed it while the other two endorsed it, Kuwait’s Kuna news agency reported.

All other members of the GCC, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have ratified the agreement.

The rejection by the committee is a serious blow to efforts by supporters of the Gulf pact to convince the parliament to ratify it amid claims that it was unconstitutional.

MP Hamdan Al Azimi, the committee rapporteur, said after the meeting that the foreign affairs committee had given the committee of constitutional experts a one month period to present its views on the agreement, but the latter failed to respond, instead asking for an extension.

The foreign affairs committee subsequently decided to vote on the agreement without the constitutional experts’ recommendations.

The committee’s concluding report will now be presented to parliament for voting in the next session.

Kuwaiti government officials have been insisting that the provisions of the agreement were in line with the constitution and that endorsing the pact would bolster the collective security of the Gulf alliance.

Several lawmakers made statements that they would vote against the pan-Gulf security agreement, insisting that it violated the text and spirit of the country’s constitution.

The agreement was rejected with three votes against and two for. MPs Hamad Al Harshani and Kamel Al Awadi voted for it, and MPs Ali Rashed, Saleh Ashour and Hamdan Al Azimi voted against it, according to Al Jareeda newspaper.

The government has rejected allegations that the agreement violates the constitution and often stressed its significance for the country and the region.

“Article One of the GCC security agreement does not clash with the Kuwaiti constitution, and there is no way that we endorse any law or decision that is against our constitution,” Shaikh Sabah Al Khalid, the foreign minister, said last month.

Earlier, Oil Minister and Parliament Affairs State Minister Ali Al 0mair said that the government would not refer anything that contradicted the constitution to the parliament.

“I urge the [parliament members] to read the articles of the Gulf agreement objectively,” he said.

“The first article of the agreement is very clear about the significance of the national legislation of each of the member states. National legislation and international agreements take precedence over the Gulf agreement. The Gulf agreement clearly stresses the independence of each member state,” Al 0mair said.

In March, the foreign affairs committee said that more studies and further consultations with experts were needed before the voting by the parliament should go ahead.

“We have decided to postpone the voting on the security agreement,” Al Azimi told the media following the meeting.

The parliament was scheduled to debate in March whether to endorse the pact amid calls from the government to the MPs to give their approval.

The parliament has been fractured over the last months over the issue after lawmakers were deeply divided.

A poll published by local daily Al Qabas indicated that 19 lawmakers were against the agreement, while only eight would support it. The report said that 21 lawmakers had yet to make up their minds on how to vote. Pushing for a yes vote, the government insisted that the pact was not unconstitutional, as some lawmakers who opposed it have claimed.

Khalid Al Jarallah, foreign ministry undersecretary, said that the pact was in accordance with the Kuwaiti constitution.

“People should go through the articles of the agreement cautiously in order to appreciate them,” he said.

“It clearly states that the national legislation is always sovereign. In fact, the term of national legislation was mentioned five times, which means that they take precedence and that they cannot be abolished or ignored, particularly the constitution.”

However, Al Azimi said that the Gulf security agreement was not in line with the Kuwaiti constitution.

“The agreement cannot be accepted under any circumstance,” he said. “There is a need for pressure from the parliament to explain some of its articles, particularly the extradition of suspects and the definition of crime. There is a need for popular pressure to make sure the agreement is not endorsed. We cannot please some countries at the expense of Kuwait and its interest.”