Saudi Crown Prince looks forward to 'new horizons' for GCC and Central Asian countries

UAE delegation to regional summit led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, with leaders attending the Summit of the GCC and Central Asian countries in Jeddah. AFP
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Wednesday that he looked forward to “new horizons” in relations between Gulf Co-operation Council states and the bloc of Central Asian countries informally known as the C5, comprising Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Speaking at the inaugural GCC and C5 summit that took place in Jeddah on Wednesday, Prince Mohammed said he hoped the event would be a “promising start based on what we possess in historic legacy, human resources, capabilities and economic growth”.

Prince Mohammed added he hoped “new horizons” would open for work in areas of mutual co-operation.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday afternoon with the UAE delegation to the summit, state news agency Wam reported.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim, Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al Ahmad, and Omani Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Co-operation Affairs Sayyid Asa'ad bin Tariq Al Said were also in attendance.

The summit established a "promising start based on our historical heritage, capabilities, human resources and economic growth … and we look forward to working together to open new horizons," Prince Mohammed said in a statement shared by Saudi state media on Wednesday evening.

"Let us push our relations towards more close co-operation."

He praised a four-year joint action plan to advance dialogue between the GCC and Central Asian states in various fields.

Bahrain's King Hamad delegated Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad, the King's Representative for Humanitarian Works and Youth Affairs, to attend on his behalf.

Saudi King Salman this week sent invitations to leaders of all countries in the two blocs to attend the summit in Jeddah.

The meeting in Jeddah coincides with the 18th consultative meeting of the GCC.

“The convening of the Gulf Summit with the [C5] countries in the kingdom reflects the participating countries' appreciation of the kingdom's position at the Gulf, Islamic and international levels, and their commitment to establishing an ambitious future strategic partnership between their countries, through a joint action plan in the areas of political and security dialogue, and economic and investment co-operation,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said.

After foreign ministerial meetings in Jeddah, the GCC and C5 bloc agreed to sign a joint action plan for strategic dialogue and co-operation between the two blocs for 2023-2027.

The joint action plan will include several trade and other agreements, to be signed once all delegations arrive later on Wednesday afternoon.

Foreign ministers from the GCC met their counterparts from the C5 bloc in Riyadh in September, when they launched the GCC-Central Asia Strategic Dialogue.

“The GCC-Central Asia Strategic Dialogue [is] a new arrangement to launch co-operation in all areas of mutual interest, including political and security dialogues, trade and investment co-operation, and cultural engagement,” the ministers said in a joint statement at the time.

According to the GCC secretary general, the volume of trade between the two blocs amounted to about $3.1 billion in 2021, or about 0.27 per cent of the total volume of merchandise trade from the GCC countries combined.

The value of exports from the GCC to the countries of the C5 bloc amounted to nearly $2.06 billion in 2021, compared with imports of about $1.03 billion.

“The joint co-operation between the Gulf Co-operation Council countries with the five Central Asian countries has come at the right time as the two blocs look towards the long-term future of strategic global alliances,” Kuwaiti political analyst Essa Al Amiri told Al Ekhbariyah news channel.

“The C5 countries are also known for their natural resources and it is strategic for the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, to look to diversifying its trade agreements away from its reliance on oil exports."

Although the five central Asian countries are not yet a formal bloc, they have come to be known as the C5 and have been increasing engagement with regional neighbours such as Russia and China.

In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and met Russian President Vladimir Putin on his first foreign trip since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in early 2020.

In May, the presidents of the C5 countries visited the starting point of ancient China’s Silk Road and attended the China-Central Asia Summit.

Updated: July 20, 2023, 4:56 AM