By Arab News
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
A consultative meeting of GCC leaders chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah here yesterday agreed to give more time to work out details of the proposed Gulf Union.
They also called on Iran to refrain from meddling in the affairs of the Gulf states in the best interest of the Iran-GCC relations and for maintaining peace and security in the region.
Speaking to reporters after the summit meeting, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that “Iran should keep out of the Kingdom’s relations with Bahrain, even if the two states decide to form a union.” He added: “Iran has nothing to do with what happens between the two countries, even if it develops into a unity.”
He said Gulf Cooperation Council member states would continue discussions on a possible union of the six nations but any such plan would take time, Prince Saud said. “GCC leaders have approved a plan for further study by the commission to present final results (to the next summit),” he told a news conference.
“The issue will take time… The aim is for all countries to join, not just two or three,” he added. Hence, the GCC leaders agreed to allow time for “further discussions over the proposed Gulf union,” said Prince Saud, while referring to the Iranian intentions.
Iranian MPs earlier yesterday condemned a reported plan for union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. “The Iranian threat is not acceptable,” said Prince Saud. About 190 Iranian MPs have signed a letter criticizing the Gulf states’ plan to forge a Gulf union.
“The Gulf Arab leaders discussed the plan in detail for a closer political union to protect themselves from the ugly uprisings in the region and face up to Tehran’s influence,” said a GCC official. “The proposal to forge closer political alliance and eventually to create a Gulf Union topped the deliberations in the light of the results of the first meeting of the special commission formed by the GCC states to study the proposal,” said a press statement released by the GCC here after the meeting.
“The commission’s report has reflected an interest in the transfer of GCC joint work to the stage of a union, within the framework of supporting the GCC objectives and enhancement of the GCC’s capabilities,” said the statement. The special commission will continue its works and consultations to develop visions and ideas of the Gulf Union and submit them to the GCC leaders during their next summit, said the statement.
The six-member GCC grouping have been considering a framework for expanding the bloc into a tighter political organization for several months. The GCC consultative meeting also discussed key regional issues of common concern. The summit expressed support for the unity of the Arab ranks and the achievement of the Arab solidarity. Earlier, King Abdullah welcomed the leaders and heads of the GCC delegations, wishing them all success.
The consultative meeting was attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE’s vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai; King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain; Sayyid Fahad bin Mahmoud Al Saeed, deputy prime minister for Cabinet affairs of Oman; Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar; and Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti emir.
The GCC leaders also discussed the “latest developments in the region and the report by the committee to change the 31-year-old alliance into a union,” said a GCC spokesman. Saudi Arabia has also been extolling the merits of the union as a vital necessity to confront security threats and political and economic challenges in an increasingly changing world.
The announcement to give more time marks the start of drawing up the details for the implementation of the union in the security, political, military and economic areas, the source said, adding that the regional and international circumstances make the union an urgent necessity. The GCC countries have demonstrated strong unity in their political and security positions on the events in Bahrain and the standoff between the UAE and Iran on the UAE islands, the source said.
“The bitter experiences in some of the GCC countries should be a strong motivation to join the union,” the source said. The delegation of the Kingdom included Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, Defense Minister Prince Salman, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Riyadh Gov. Prince Sattam and Intelligence chief Prince Muqrin.
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, minister of state, member of the Cabinet and commander of the National Guard; Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, deputy minister of foreign affairs; Abdulaziz Al-Khuwaiter, minister of state and member of the Cabinet, and Dr. Musaad Al-Aiban, Minister of State and Member of the Cabinet, were also present as part of the Saudi delegation.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, emir of Qatar, met with Deputy Prime Minister for Cabinet Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Saeed. After the meeting, all GCC leaders were seen off at the airport by top Saudi officials.