Regional cooperation seeks to address challenges

16:53 | 12/12/2016 Cooperation

The 37th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit, held in Manama, capital city of Bahrain on December 6-7, discussed a series of “hot” issues in the region, with a priority to work out a strategy to confront security challenges and boost wider and deeper economic integration.

A broad view of the 37th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Manama, Bahrain (Photo Courtesy - Arabnews)

Though covered under the US security umbrella, the GCC member states have worked to consolidate their regional connection in order to deal with potential challenges. With security top of the summit agenda, leaders from the six GCC member states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman, committed to fighting extremist ideologies that fuel terrorism and the distortion of Islam’s image.

After two days of sitting, the summit issued its final communiqué, which stressed the importance of making the Arabian Gulf and the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. Taking place at a time when such hotspots of Yemen and Syria have made considerable impacts on regional security, the conferees reaffirmed their full support to Yemen's unity, sovereignty and independence and rejected any attempts to interfere in its domestic affairs. They underscored the significance of finding a political solution to the Yemeni crisis in line with the Gulf Initiative and its Executive Mechanism, Output of the Comprehensive National Dialogue, Riyadh Conference and UNSC Resolution 2216. Regarding the Syria crisis and the fight against terrorism in the region, the statement reiterated the GCC’s unwavering position and determination to address threats from Islamic extremists.

One of the top priority topics under discussion at the summit was the call for closer economic cooperation as all GCC member states have been affected by the continuous drops in oil prices for a prolonged period of time. As the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) recently agreed to a crude oil production cut, the Gulf oil producing countries, which accounted for 85% of the cut, determined to join hands to cope with low oil prices, rebalance the market and increase oil prices.

As a strong economic alliance in the region, the GCC bloc has the potential to be the sixth largest economy in the world. This remark made at the meeting of the GCC Economic and Development Affairs Authority, which was hosted in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in November, has motivated GCC states to closely work together and take advantage of opportunities to boost development.

Regarding the GCC economy, GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al Zayani said that the achievements in this key area prove that the GCC common market, which was established in 2008, was an excellent move that benefited all. He pointed to the customs union, which enabled the GCC countries to increase the volume of trade from US$20 billion in 2003 to US$140 billion in 2015. The benefits brought from the economic alliance made the GCC consider consolidating their alliance into a Political and Military Union similar to the European Union, as initiated by the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in December 2011 to move GCC from the phase of cooperation to the phase of a union. However, the move required careful consideration from all state members...

The GCC has not ruled out forming different security scenarios in order to avoid its dependence on the US at a time when Washington is no longer interested in traditional allies in the Gulf and have revealed more open policies towards Iran. Therefore, developing a stronger regional links in both political and economic security is among the Gulf states strategy with a hope to bring the GCC into the spotlight on the world’s map, and effectively cope with potential challenges in the region.

Theo NDO