Manama: The planned Gulf military force under a unified military command will be made up of 100,000 officers and staff, the Saudi Minister of the National Guard has said.

Prince Mitab Bin Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud made the statement after attending military exercises conducted by the Saudi National Guard, but he did not elaborate.

However, he stressed that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are the real force in the Middle East, and emphasised the importance of Gulf unity as the genuine power of the entire region and the Arab nation, Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported.

Prince Mitab said his country’s National Guard is ready to take part in the Gulf force if it is requested to do so, noting that Saudi National Guard’s mission is defending its homeland and maintaining security and stability within the Kingdom.

He added that the call by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to form a GCC union would provide the Gulf countries with more strength in their foreign relations and would boost their security, defensive and economic powers, the official news agency said.

King Abdullah in December 2011 called upon the GCC members — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — to move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity.

Although the six countries welcomed the call to transform the council, established in 1981 in Abu Dhabi, some members said they needed more time to look into the finer details.

Hopes were high among supporters of a union to have it announced at the Manama Summit in December last year, but the leaders agreed to postpone it and agreed on making the formal announcement of the union at a special summit to be held in Saudi Arabia.

Hopes were again raised ahead of the GCC summit in Kuwait on December 10-11, but on December 7, Yousuf Al Alawi, the Omani minister of foreign affairs, said at the Manama Dialogue, an international security conference, that his country would not join the union, sparking a lively debate over the future of the Council.

On December 16, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa, in an address to the nation, said that Bahrain was ready to join the union and that he was looking forward to the call to hold the special summit in Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have been the most openly enthusiastic about the move towards the union, citing national, regional and international needs to face increasingly difficult challenges.

Talks are now emerging that the union could start with a core of two or three or four countries and that the other member states could join at their own pace, in a move similar to the European Union.

The final communique at the end of the 34th GCC Summit in Kuwait said that the Council agreed to establish a unified military command for the GCC countries and tasked the Joint Defence Council to “take the necessary measures to activate it according to the relevant studies”.

The communique said that the decision was taken as “part of the steps and efforts aiming to reinforce the security and stability of the GCC countries and to establish a common military system to achieve collective security.”