12/07/2011

Prince Turki calls for a stronger Gulf bloc

By GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN | ARAB NEWS


RIYADH: Prince Turki Al-Faisal on Monday called on Gulf states to make the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) a powerful regional bloc with a unified armed force and a unified defense industry.


The chief of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, who has been intensively engaged in public diplomacy across the world, also urged GCC leaders and decision-makers at “The Gulf and the Globe” conference in Riyadh to transform the 30-year-old regional bloc into a strong “union of sovereign states.”
Prince Turki, who in his speech supported the idea of Gulf countries acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) if Israel and Iran do not roll back their nuclear programs, identified 11 major fields in which GCC countries can unify their efforts and positions to make the Gulf body a force to reckon with.
The concluding session, attended by a large number of Saudi and Gulf officials as well as foreign diplomats, was chaired by Abdulkarim Al-Dekhayel, director general of the Institute of Diplomatic Studies.
Baqer Salman Al-Najjar, former member of Bahrain's Shoura Council, Anwar M. Al-Rawas of the Oman-based Sultan Qaboos University and Ye Qing, director general of the Shanghai Institute for International Organization and International Law, also spoke during the session.
Referring to what the GCC can accomplish in the near future Prince Turki said: “We can create a unified Arabian Peninsula, an elected Shoura Council, a unified armed force with a unified defense industry. We can also achieve an economic system with a unified currency, set up a unified space agency, a unified IT industry, a unified aerospace industry, an automotive industry, an educational system with a unified curriculum, a unified energy and petrochemical industry and a unified justice system.”
Referring to the achievements of the GCC, he said that there was a need to reevaluate the position in the context of rapid changes taking place around the world, especially in the Middle East. “Why shouldn’t this Gulf grouping become a union of sovereign states to move forward with a unified unity of purpose?” he said.
“Why shouldn’t we commence the building of a unified military force, with a clear chain of command,” asked the prince, adding that Gulf states are committed to making the Middle East free from WMDs.
“But, if our efforts and the efforts of the world community fail to bring about the dismantling of the Israeli arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and preventing Iran from acquiring the same, then why shouldn’t we at least study seriously all available options, including acquiring WMDs, so that our future generations will not blame us for neglecting any courses of action that will keep looming dangers away from us,” he noted.
Referring to the rising powers on the world map today, Prince Turki said China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Turkey as well as Japan, the European Union, and the Russian Federation are growing in power and stature. “A new and diverse distribution of power is taking the stage,” he added.
He said that change taking place in Arab countries was neither foretold by anyone nor can anyone predict where it is heading. He also cautioned that Gulf states “must not remain mortgaged to changing international policies and victims of diplomatic bargains.”
“We must be forceful actors in all global engagements that affect our region and not allow others to impose their choices on us because we are militarily weak and are, therefore, followers of others,” he added.
Prince Turki called on the Gulf governments to review policies that are not “innovative and inventive.”
“We are a market for imported labor, while our youngsters are unemployed,” said the prince, calling on decision makers to improve political and cultural institutions.