Prince Turki Al Faisal urges rethink of GCC policies

A former Saudi official urges GCC states to institute political reforms in the wake of MIddle East unrest.

ABU DHABI // Prince Turki al Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the US and to Britain, called yesterday for Gulf countries to rethink their political policies and introduce reforms in answer to the wave of popular protests sweeping the region.

In the past three months, the Arab world has been home to "political earthquakes", Prince Turki said at a high level conference in the capital.

Speaking at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, he said the protests had led to both positive and negative outcomes on the rest of the Arab world. For the first time since the formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the bloc was now "forced" to rethink its political strategy, he said.

"After 30 years of creating the GCC, and in this city, we are forced to rethink in this council … of its mission - local, regional and global reasons are forcing this on us. We have reached a stage where we have to rethink a lot of [things] that have led our political thinking in the past centuries, which were good at that time and established relative stability, which had allowed us to accomplish many achievements in our countries."

The region had witnessed three wars in three decades, and a problem for any one of the GCC countries was a problem for all, he said.

“Stability for any of us is stability for all, and any tragedy that affects any one of us is a tragedy for all, and our experience in the GCC has shown this,” he said. “We have seen of late how the GCC has responded to the challenges Bahrain and Oman face, as many have rushed to contribute financially US$20 billion (Dh73.45bn) to them.”

As unrest continued to spread across the region, with two of the countries in the GCC involved, the prince said the GCC was currently, and would increasingly, be faced with many challenges.

Prince Turki named the labour market, the economy, population structure, and how countries valued their citizens as some of the challenges.

He said the GCC should not fall victim to political changes in other countries, and that other countries should not interfere.

“We should not let others enforce themselves on us with the excuse that our military forces are weak.”

He suggested that the council’s structure should reform to become a union, following the model of the European Union.