Next two years crucial for Gulf union

No rift within the bloc over Syria, Bahrain foreign minister says
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief

Manama: Bahrain’s foreign minister has predicted that the next two years will be crucial for a proposed Gulf union.
Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz in December 2011 called upon the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to move “from the phase of cooperation to the phase of union within a single entity”.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE welcomed the proposal although, at subsequent meetings, they said that more time was needed to look at the details.
“We are waiting for reports from each of the member states that will be discussed at a special session in Riyadh,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said. “I believe that 2013 and 2014 will be crucial for the Gulf union,” the minister told Qatari daily Al Arab.
Shaikh Khalid said that the reports that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were planning to go ahead with a two-state union ahead of the other members were attributed to the enthusiasm expressed by Manama for the Saudi King’s proposal.
“This was an interpretation of Bahrain’s pronounced stance at a time when the other GCC member countries had varying attitudes towards the proposal,” he said. “The daily coordination between Saudi Arabia and Qatar on various issues and on international politics is much deeper and wider and yet no one is talking about a core union between Doha and Riyadh. There is no two-state union. The objective of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz is to achieve integration between the six member countries and there is nothing outside the GCC. The aim is to improve the current council and build upon its achievements and not replacing the current structure,” he said in the remarks published on Monday.
Shaikh Khalid who was on an official visit to Doha where he held talks with the Qatari emir and prime minister, denied the existence of rifts within the GCC towards the developments in Syria.
“There is no rift and the GCC position is part of the Arab League initiative. We did not put forward a new plan since the Arab League has adopted the initiative. We did not dispute any statement issued by the pan-Arab organisation. Some of the GCC countries played a bigger role than others, but this does not mean there are differences. We all agree on assisting the people of Syria,” he said.