Manama: A much-anticipated Gulf union is inevitable and will happen because people in the region are keen on it, a senior Saudi chairperson of a research centre has said.
“People in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) want a closely-knit union and such a union has now become inevitable,” Prince Turki Al Faisal, the Chairman of the Board of the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies, said at the conclusion of the Manama Dialogue.
The three-day annual international security conference concluded with the statement of Prince Turki who was commenting on remarks made on Saturday by Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, the Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, who said that his country rejected the Gulf union.
The GCC, made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was established in Abu Dhabi in 1981.
In 2011, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz called on the member states to move from the phase of cooperation to the phase of a union, within a single entity.
The members agreed, but some of them said they needed more time to look into the details of the proposal.
On Saturday, Nizar Bin Obaid Madani, Saudi Arabia’s state minister for foreign affairs, pressed for the union as an urgent matter that should not be delayed.
“Moving to the union has become a necessity imposed by the great importance of the Gulf region and the strategic political and economic aspects that have also brought numerous risks and problems,” he said as one of the panellists in the first session.
“This imposed on the GCC the quest for integration and the union in order to maintain the gains and achievements and prevent risks and threats.”
He added that the “current stage requires the GCC states to rectify the identity of the Council so as to be based on a consensus of views with an emphasis on the common GCC destiny and the collective interests of the GCC countries”.
However, Yousuf Bin Alawi, the Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, who was among the audience listening to the Saudi speech, requested to comment.
“I was not scheduled to give a speech at this Manama Dialogue, but when I listened to my dear colleague and friend Madani, I felt I needed to present the other view on the issue of the Gulf union,” he said.
“We in Oman understand the current situation of the GCC. We believe that when the GCC was founded, the agreement was to preserve security and stability in this region and to support the international community with the independence of the six countries in the region.
“Now more decades later, we find that we have achieved a lot within the goals for which the GCC was established. We all have bigger and larger ambitions for the GCC, but there is a fact that all Gulf nationals know and that is that we as governments did not agree on the main pillars of the GCC, especially in the economic area.
“I would like to say clearly that the failure of the GCC to build a genuine economic system that would be a more important platform for the future is because of the views held by some of us to leave it to the future and it was left to the future.
However as a result, when events unfolded quickly and new requirements emerged, we wanted to look into various forms and patterns of common action at a time of conflicts.
“We are not at all with the union. But if the union does happen, and there does not seem to be a wish from the other brothers at least on an agreement on steps at a time when there are strong winds, we are part of the region and we will deal with it,” he said.
The minister said that Oman was not and did not wish to be part of any conflicts.
“We are internationally at a historical crossroads that requires action for peace and security. We realise that youth make up 60–65 per cent of our citizens. This growth in demography requires establishing a new culture that can be part of the world heritage,” he said.
“We must not enter in any conflict with anyone, be they close or far. We cannot go back to the past century. We must keep our region away from regional conflicts.
“With respect for all view on the future of the region, we believe that might does not mean that people should be militarised to enter into conflicts or to face conflicts.”
He issued his statement three days before the GCC leaders are scheduled to hold their summit in Kuwait City.
“Everyone has the right to express their opinions,” Prince Turki said. “However, this will not prevent the union from happening. Oman can join it now or later,” he said.
Observers said that some of the GCC countries could set up a core union of at least four states and that the other members could join at their own pace.
Officials in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been particularly openly enthusiastic about the union.
The GCC summit opens in Kuwait on Tuesday.