GCC leaders stress need for strong foreign policy between member states

Riyadh Declaration issued at 42nd GCC summit in Saudi capital

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GCC leaders stressed the need for member states to build an effective foreign policy at the 42nd GCC summit on Tuesday in Riyadh.

Leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar agreed on the importance of the GCC’s common economic, defence and security integration to enhance stability among member states, according to the Riyadh Declaration issued at the end of the summit in the Saudi capital.

The summit heard the declaration would help the GCC to avert regional and international conflicts, while enhancing solidarity among GCC member states.

It would also strengthen the GCC’s regional and international role through new partnerships regionally and globally, the summit was told.

GCC states come together every year to discuss trade, politics and security issues. Iran was expected to be high on the agenda this year amid international efforts to revive a nuclear pact with Tehran.

Speaking at the summit, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed the kingdom's concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.

Prince Mohammed said the kingdom “stresses the importance of seriously and urgently dealing with Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programme to ensure regional and international security and stability".

He also said his country would continue to make efforts to achieve stability in the region.

"The kingdom also watches with concern the unfolding developments in Afghanistan and urges international and regional efforts to offer assistance to the country," he said.

GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak Al Hajraf said an act of aggression against any one of the Gulf states was considered an act against all of the bloc's member states.

On Syria, Gulf leaders “affirmed their position towards preserving its territorial integrity and respecting its independence and sovereignty.”

They also rejected any external inference in Syria’s internal affairs.

The secretary general called for unity against threats amid an escalation in missile and drone attacks against the kingdom carried out by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

He said the Gulf states would hold joint military training exercises in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Region next month.

Mr Al Hajraf also said Gulf leaders agreed on setting up plans that aim to reach environmental sustainability goals, fight global change and achieve Saudi Arabia's vision of a “circular carbon economy” which it announced as host of the G20 summit last year.

The summit is the first time Gulf leaders met since signing the historic AlUla agreement in January to end a rift with Qatar that lasted three and a half years.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt had cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in 2017 over its support for extremist groups.

The Supreme Council assigned committees to establish a customs union and GCC Common Market in the lead up to a full economic unity of the GCC by 2025. It also approved the GCC Railways Authority and commended the opening of the GCC unified military command in Riyadh.

Speaking at the summit, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad hailed the Saudi crown prince's recent tour of the Gulf, which sought to enhance co-ordination between GCC states and strengthen the work of the regional body.

“We laud the results of the Gulf visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which has positively paved the way for this summit,” said King Hamad.

He also commended the crown prince's aim to “bring different points of views closer and overcome challenges” during his trip, which included Bahrain, Oman, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, led the UAE's delegation and was welcomed to the summit by Prince Mohammed.

Shortly before he arrived in Riyadh, Sheikh Mohammed said: “We need a strong start for the fifth decade of the Gulf Co-operation Council. We are looking forward to economic integration. We are looking for real and deep co-operation.”

Oman's Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahad bin Mahmoud Al Said, was the first to arrive in Saudi Arabia with his country's delegation and he held talks with Prince Mohammed.

The country's foreign ministry shared pictures of the Omani delegation departing for Riyadh.

Updated: December 15, 2021, 7:12 AM