By Arab News
By Ali Al-Bluwi and Ghazanfar Ali Khan
In a strategic call to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah urged the bloc to move from cooperation to full unity.
“I urge you all to move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity,” he told his counterparts at the opening of the annual GCC summit here Monday.
King Abdullah’s call to form a strong union came against the backdrop of regional political turmoil and growing threats.
King Abdullah also reaffirmed the need to transform the GCC into a strong unified entity without giving details. He stressed the need to help all brothers in the Arab world, and called on them to “refrain from conflicts and bloodshed.”
He also called on the Gulf governments “to stand united and vigilant” to confront challenges. He said that the GCC has to adapt to the new circumstances in the Middle East following the uprisings that swept some Arab countries earlier this year.
“We have learned from history and experience not to stand still when faced with reality,” the king told the gathering, mainly composed of the members of royal families in the Gulf countries, royal court advisers, top government officials and civil servants.
The king further said: “Whoever remains a mere spectator, will be lost… That is something we will not accept for the sake of our countries, our people, our stability and security.”
King Abdullah, who spoke at the ceremonial Diraiyya Palace, praised the resilience of GCC citizens and called for “continued vigilance against enemies of peace and security.”
Over four hundred top GCC officials attended the inaugural ceremony.
Other GCC heads of state present at the summit talks were Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar; King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain; Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman and Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah of Kuwait. The United Arab Emirates was represented by Vice President Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. King Abdullah later received the heads of state and their respective delegations separately.
Asked about the programs following the opening ceremony, Saleem S.A. Al-Alawi, director of the GCC secretary-general’s press office, said, “The Gulf leaders would meet again on Tuesday, possibly in the afternoon to discuss the whole range of subjects on the agenda.”
He said that there were some bilateral meetings, talks and private visits after the opening of the summit Monday night. The GCC leaders later held a closed-door meeting.
The security in the capital city was beefed up with thousands of policemen deployed around the summit venue and along the roads. A large number of police vans were parked along the roads including the main Khurais Road leading to the summit venue.
But, normal flow of vehicles was not much disrupted. Fire brigade and ambulances were also parked at different places along the route to cope with any emergency situation. In order to ensure utmost security to the high-profile participants, aerial patrolling was also conducted.
Referring to the summit talks, a GCC official said that the Gulf leaders would discuss the situation in the region, including Iran, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. He said that a number of Gulf committees had prepared a huge list of items to be discussed by the Gulf leaders on Monday night and Tuesday. “The agenda is full with particular reference to the need for closer cooperation among the Gulf states,” said the official.
Earlier in an arrival statement, Sheikh Hamad of Qatar said he was happy to attend the summit along with his brothers from other GCC states. “We hope that the conference would come out with effective results that would strengthen the GCC and realize the hopes and aspirations of its peoples,” he said. He also wished good health for King Abdullah and greater progress and prosperity for the people of Saudi Arabia.
Sultan Qaboos emphasized the GCC leaders’ efforts to realize the hopes and wishes of GCC people and enhance their prosperity. “I am happy over the tremendous achievements made by the GCC in the past years and we are continuing our endeavors to achieve more,” the Omani leader said, emphasizing the need to bolster the GCC’s cooperation and integration.
Bahrain’s King Hamad stressed the summit’s importance, saying it would help GCC leaders to discuss ways and means to strengthen the organization in the face of growing challenges. “Our renewed meetings reflect the GCC leaders’ strong desire to strengthen their relations,” Hamad said, adding that the GCC would rise up to the expectations of its citizens.
Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal also called for “more cooperation and increased coordination” between the GCC member states in the wake of the new regional developments.
Speaking to reporters after a ministerial meeting on Sunday, Prince Saud said: “There was an urgent need for cooperation to preserve our region’s security and stability and to ensure natural growth and development…away from foreign intervention.”
On the assassination plot uncovered against Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel Al-Jubeir, Prince Saud stressed that this represents not just a threat to the Kingdom but to diplomatic relations and the international law as a whole, and particularly the Geneva Conventions.
During the GCC ministerial meeting, Prince Saud warned against the “continued Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of the regional countries.”
He also warned that Tehran’s “work to develop nuclear capabilities, which would allow it in the future to possess nuclear weapons, would represent a clear threat to the security and stability of the region.”
The foreign minister praised Bahrain for the independent and transparent inquiry carried out by a group of prominent statesmen renowned for impartiality into the recent unrest in the Gulf country. He also disclosed plans to send an ambassador to Libya following the formation of a new government there.