Updated: Sheikh Khalifa forms joint military alliance between UAE and Saudi Arabia

The Joint Co-operation Committee will co-ordinate between the two countries in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields

FILE- In this June 2, 2017 file photo released by Saudi Press Agency, Saudi King Salman, left, talks to Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. The arrests of apparent Islamist sympathizers and critics of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have thrown an already anxious kingdom into deep unease, raising questions about the country's steadiness as speculation mounts that the crown prince, could soon replace his father as king. Together, the two crown princes are leading the diplomatic assault on Qatar that began in early June. (Saudi Press Agency via AP, File)
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The UAE announced on Tuesday it had formed a new alliance with Saudi Arabia in a move that will bring the two countries closer together on a wide range of key areas including defence, political institutions and the economy.

News of the Presidential decree formalising the arrangement came on the eve of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Kuwait, which was attended largely by ministers from the member countries, rather than heads of state, as usual.

According to the resolution, issued by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, the committee will co-ordinate all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries.

From the UAE side, it will be chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said the Chairman of the Committee would decide on the appointment of its members from representatives of a number of federal and local government bodies and sectors in the country.

According to the resolution, the Committee will co-ordinate between the two countries in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries.

The creation of the alliance, and the scope of its remit, is a further sign of the ever closer ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Marcelle Wahba, the president of the Washington-based Arab Gulf States Institute, said two countries had probably been preparing the groundwork for the new body for several months.

"The formal resolution issued today forming a joint cooperation committee between the UAE and Saudi Arabia is no surprise." she said.  "I believe it’s been in the works for quite some time."

While the GCC has been a forum for Gulf Arab countries to pursue their common interests for nearly 40 years, the current summit is dominated by the continuing dispute with fellow member Qatar, over its support for extremist organisations and its ties with Iran.

There have been clear signs for some time that the UAE and Saudi are seeking to strengthen their relationship outside the GCC.

In May last year, a meeting in Jeddah between King Salman and Sheikh Mohammed was followed by the announcement of a coordination committee composed of senior government officials from both countries.

The committee would promote “shared religious, historical, social and cultural ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia”, and “out of keenness to consolidate the fraternal relations between them”, according to the state news agency WAM.

It would to be chaired by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, and Mohammed bin Salman, who has since taken a more active role in his country's affairs, after succeeding as Crown Prince in June, with wide scale reforms and a crackdown on corruption.

It was followed in December by a state visit by King Salman in which he was presented with the Zayed Medal, the country’s highest honour, by Sheikh Mohammed and remarks by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, that there had been a “paradigm shift in bilateral ties” between the two countries.

Sheikh Mohammed also spoke of the two countries have passed beyond the usual diplomatic ties and could be considered as one.

Both the UAE and Saudi are also engaged in joint military action in Yemen, leading the fight against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, and with the war potentially entering a crucial stage following the killing of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh this week, after the breakdown of his alliance with the Houthis.