Joint declaration at GCC summit raises hopes and expectations

What the Arabic press is saying about the 37th annual GCC summit that took place in Bahrain last week.

British prime minister Theresa May with Saudi King Salman, left, and King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, at the GCC summit in Manama. AFP
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GCC leaders wrapped up the 37th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Bahrain last week, issuing a declaration that laid out their shared positions on a number of regional matters. The move was aimed at promoting GCC unity.

Writing in Aletihad, the Arabic-language sister publication of The National, Dr Saleh Abdul Rahman Al Maneh said that the idea of Gulf unity “is part and parcel of the nations’ heritage, culture and vision for the future. This vision is not related to external threats. Rather, it arises from the heart of Gulf Arab countries – from positive and patriotic feelings of citizens of these countries.”

The writer explained that this unity – or the feeling of union, as some would like to call it – neither constitutes an intellectual extravagance, nor is it the result of a fear of a possible strategic threat. Rather, it is a socially, economically and politically rooted notion.

“Although this natural unity and cohesion is largely true of the tribes in these countries, the political elite also maintain a firm belief in Gulf unity despite their diverse standpoints on various issues and the slow and gradual process of such unity.

“The closing statement of the summit revealed the participants’ keenness to pursue their efforts towards building a solid Gulf economy by forming an agglomeration that would shift from cooperation to union, in addition to other key mechanisms, particularly the GCC Economic and Development Affairs Authority,” the writer noted.

Al Maneh also saw a trend towards building a new strategic alliance between the GCC and the UK. He considered the declaration of such an alliance to be the highlight of the summit.

“Both Gulf and British parties were keen on taking their existing relations to the level of strategic partnership that includes cooperation in security, defence as well as in other areas, such as economy and culture.

“Moreover, they gave an undertaking to stand up to Iran, whose activities threaten the region’s stability. They also agreed to form a joint ministerial council that convenes on an annual basis to discuss not just political and security issues, but also economic and cultural matters of the region,” he wrote.

Al Maneh said that the UK had stepped up its efforts to strengthen its ties with the GCC countries in light of its expected exit from the European Union next year and of the region’s concern over a possible American isolationist policy.

According to the commentator Jihad Al Khazen the summit’s guest of honour, British prime minister Theresa May, told the participants what they wanted to hear about Iran. She also tackled the two-century partnership between Britain and the GCC countries.

“Ms May linked her country’s welfare and security to those of the GCC countries. She promised her Arab friends to collaborate with them in Syria as they have stood by her country in times of crisis,” Al Khazen wrote in the London-based pan-Arab daily, Al Hayat.

The writer expressed satisfaction that there was no attempt at selling dreams to the GCC peoples or the Arab nation. Rather, there was talk about feasible projects based on the previous GCC summit in Riyadh.

“GCC countries are capable of forming a unified economy akin to – and even better than – that of the EU. They are planning for a single currency and a customs union among other steps that can be achieved in the near future,” he noted.

However, the writer expressed objection to a political union as he believed that six Arab countries represented at the United Nations are better than a single country with only one voice.

“The 22 Arab states have permanent representation at the Security Council thanks to their number,” he added.

Al Khazen concluded that the Bahrain Summit had left him hopeful for the future, in spite of the misery that the region is undergoing.​

* Translated by Jennifer Attieh