“I welcome you to your second country.” With these words, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opened yesterday’s Gulf Co-operation Council summit and welcomed the six member countries' leaders to Al Ula in Saudi Arabia.
Starting a new chapter in intra-Gulf dialogue, with the presence of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim, yesterday’s meeting of the GCC will be one of the most significant in the Arabian Peninsula’s recent history. The session was already historic, marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of the organisation's Charter in Abu Dhabi.
Now, while time to rebuild confidence is still necessary, yesterday’s public signing of the Al Ula statement will go down as the moment the rebuilding of trust began.
Strong historic ties and a shared, prosperous future bind the people of the Gulf together. The UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, expressed “our renewal of faith in the progress of countries of the GCC, and we renew our optimism that the coming years will bring stability and security and achievements that serve our people ... and contributes to the stability of those around us”.
With a renewed commitment to “solidarity” at the summit, the countries of the region can start the important task of pursuing common strategic interests.
This is important as the region confronts the coronavirus pandemic, and the need to strengthen regional stability in a complex geopolitical landscape. With this latter goal in mind, Prince Mohammed yesterday issued a statement on the particularly urgent need to face the threat of Iran, which behind the cover of its various proxies across the region, has on numerous occasions blatantly violated international law to target the nations of the Gulf.
Yesterday’s summit and the start of a new phase of co-operation among GCC countries was the culmination of patient and responsible diplomacy, particularly on the part of Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Nawaf, with encouragement from the US and other Gulf allies.
It is also a demonstration of the diplomatic heft of the GCC, which has, in mere decades, transformed the Gulf region into one of the wealthiest and most successful corners of the world.
There will still be those outside the Gulf who would seek to undermine the unity that has made the region so prosperous, and they must not be allowed to succeed. Yesterday showed such opponents that the Gulf can continue to advance with a sense of kinship and fraternity. The gates to this bright future are now open.