GCC elects UAE to host defence think tank to combat common security threats

Announcement that the UAE will host the Gulf Academy for Strategic and Security Studies underscores Gulf leaders' calls for deeper military, economic and political cooperation.

Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Kuwait at the final meeting of the 34th annual summit in Kuwait City. Raed Qutena / EPA
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KUWAIT CITY // The UAE was chosen by the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) yesterday to host a regional think tank for the study of common security threats.

The announcement that the UAE will host the Gulf Academy for Strategic and Security Studies came on the second and final day of the 34th annual summit of GCC leaders and underscored their call for deeper military, economic and political cooperation between the regional bloc’s six member states.

In addition to the establishment of centre for defence experts to develop a regional security doctrine, the GCC leaders also confirmed that they would set up a unified military command, the details of which were not spelt out in the summit’s final communique.

The rulers of Qatar and Bahrain, along with the host nation Kuwait, attended the summit. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, attended on behalf of the UAE, while Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Oman’s deputy premier Fahad bin Mahmoud Al Saeed represented their governments.

The gathering took place just weeks after Iran and world powers reached an agreement over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme. Since the interim accord was signed on November 24 in Geneva, the Iranian government of President Hassan Rouhani has taken steps to establish more cordial ties with Arabian Gulf nations.

His foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has visited Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE for talks with officials aimed at smoothing relations.

Abdullatif Al Zayani, the secretary general of the GCC, said yesterday that the member states of the GCC were not invited to participate in the Geneva talks. Still, he said, the bloc welcomed the “new stand of the Iranian leadership towards the GCC, hoping that such tangible steps will reflect positively on peace, security and stability” in the region.

Mr Al Zayani underscored the UAE's sovereignty over the Arabian Gulf islands of Abu Musa, the Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, which Tehran disputes. "Any practices carried out by Iran on the three islands are null and void, as they will not change the historical and legal facts that demonstrate the UAE's sovereignty over the three islands," he told a news conference.

Political and economic unification of GCC member states, first proposed by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at the 2011 GCC summit in Riyadh and put forward again by the kingdom’s assistant foreign minister on Saturday, was again a topic at this year’s meeting.

No resolution was reached, but discussion of the idea would continue, Mr Al Zayani said.

The GCC was established in 1981 to foster political, economic and security ties among Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. Since then, Saudi suggestions for deeper political integration have been resisted by some of the bloc’s members.

“The main concern of Gulf states in general is a tremendous worry that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will dominate this body,” said Mamoun Fandy, director at London Global Strategy Institute, who was attending the summit. “Yet the template really exists in the union of the UAE and has been successful for more than 40 years.”

Elsewhere in the summit’s final communique, the GCC condemned the use of chemical weapons and other internationally banned arms by the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad and urged the withdrawal of foreign fighters from the country — an apparent reference to Iranian forces and members of the Lebanon-based Hizbollah movement reportedly fighting alongside Mr Al Assad’s troops in Syria.

GCC leaders also denounced recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, reportedly carried out by an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia and intended as a warning to Riyadh not to interfere in Iraq’s domestic affairs.

The strikes are “an unacceptable violation of international law and good neighbour principles”, the communique said, adding the GCC was against “any interference in Iraq’s domestic issues”.