The GCC Summit and Current Challenges [Archives:2002/05/Law & Diplomacy]

January 28 2002

Mohammed Khidhr
Much has been so far written in Yemeni and Arab press about the 22nd summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)recently convened in Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman. Articles and analyzes have been mainly focusing on the closing statement of the summit, specifically on its decision to include Yemen in some of the GCC-affiliate institutions as a preliminary and forward step in the relationship between Yemen and this Arab grouping.
In brief the GCC is a regional economic, political and security Arab grouping established in 1981 by Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Ever since that founding date the GCC has been playing an active role within the framework of its entity as a regional organization and at both Arab and international levels. It should not be supposed that the GCC or any other Arab regional organization or even the Arab League, could possess a magic stick to help tackle the complicated problems and crises affecting the Arab world countries. But this does not acquit any organizations of their responsibilities particularly with regard to delay in implementation of targeted goals as set in their plans. Of course we have to take into consideration uncalculated or unexpected hindrances that may occur in the course of those organizations’ march, such hindrances as they could be put under the category of force majeure. I do not want this assumption to be understood as offering justifications because whatever happens there should be an emergency plan and efforts to be exerted to make up for the loss of time of delay, i.e. exceptional efforts that would ultimately lead to the fulfillment of the planned objectives in their due times.
From the closing communiqué of the summit one reads the major concerns of the GCC particularly at the present circumstances. Politically, the GCC leaders have reaffirmed in their summit their full support for the Palestinian national authority and its chairman Yasser Arafat. They also denounced the Israeli continued aggression on the Palestinian people and invasion and reoccupation of Palestinian towns and villages that are under the sovereignty of the Palestinian authority according to the so-called ”peace accords” signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and recognized by the UN and sponsors of the Middle East ”peaceful” settlement process. The other vital issue that the GCC leaders included in their summit’s closing communiqué is the state between Iraq and Kuwait and the former implementation of the UN-adopted resolutions issued before and after the U.S.-led coalition forces’ battles against Iraq in 1991. The communiqué also reiterated support for the United Arab Emirates territorial claims over the three Gulf islands of Abu Mussa, and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. The communiqué also urged Iran to settle this dispute peacefully through international arbitration.
The major military issue the GCC summit has dealt with was the approval of establishing a Supreme Defense Council in implementation of a joint defense pact signed by the GCC member states at their last summit in Bahrain in 2000. Some other internal issues were agreed upon pertaining to a unified currency and tariff, along with other economic and social issues.
The most important regional issue the GCC summit has decided upon is related to Yemen. The GCC leaders adopted a resolution on Yemen’s accession to some non-political institutions covering health, social affairs and labor, education and sports. The decision is meant to be a gradual step paving the way for further future steps for Yemen’s full membership of the GCC grouping. Although this move has been delayed for a long period, the Yemeni people hailed and welcomed it. Both official and non-official media have written a lot of articles and analyzes praising the Gulf leaders’ decision, considering it a recognition of the fact of Yemen’s integration and unity of destiny with the Gulf Grouping geographically, historically, economically and socially.
In its edition of January 10, 2002, the 26 September weekly said in an article, ” Along with its importance, this step is an obvious indication of Yemen’s importance as an inseparable part of the Arab Peninsula and the Arab Gulf region. The statement issued by the Yemeni Council of Ministers pointed out that ‘ our country’s participation in some of the GCC’s bodies was a great achievement and an inauguration of the Gulf future project of integrated goals, and an introduction to the great Arab future that all the Arab countries are looking forward to realize ‘.”
Undoubtedly, every Arab citizen hails this blessed step and wishes it to develop further till the day comes when aspirations of the Arab nation are achieved, the dearest of these aspirations is the unity of the Arab homeland from the Ocean to the Gulf.
The GCC Muscat summit is really a historic one compared to its previous counterpart summits. It is so because it has removed the barriers that lasted for the past twenty years. For the first time in its history, the GCC managed to overstep the boundaries of its six-member entity. We hope that would be followed by further steps taking the grouping to farther horizons encompassing more Arab regions outside the Arab peninsula.
As far as Yemen is concerned, its full membership of the GCC would offer the latter many benefits and advantages. Yemen constitutes a regional depth to the Gulf states and an integral part of the peninsula. Economically, it represents a huge market for the GCC products and an area open to Arab Gulf States investments in economic and industrial and tourist projects. It enjoys beautiful and enchanting sceneries and has multitudes of historical sites that can be invested into tourist facilities for the Gulf states citizens as well as Arab and foreign tourists, especially if we think of Yemen’s convenient climate around the year’s seasons. Human resources of Yemen also are well-qualified to be employed in all industrial, agricultural and various development sectors in the GCC countries instead of depending on labor from other parts of the world which costs huge amounts of hard currency in addition to other complications that accompany foreign labor, particularly with regard to culture and religion and their possible adverse impact on the social fabric of the region.
Although we are well aware of the importance and inevitability of cementing Arab ties and strong solidarity and cooperation as we are one nation and share the same religion, and moreover aware of the dangers threatening the Arab entity in all fields, the 11 September events in New York City and Washington came to be a forewarning to the seriousness of the dangers posing to the entire Arab homeland. This situation dictates on all Arab regimes to take all steps towards achieving reconciliation and strengthening their solidarity and cooperation in all areas. Any delay in this direction would bring serious consequences to the entire Arab nation and the Arab masses would not then forgive their regimes for not seizing the appropriate opportunities that later might not be available. The main two Arab issues are the Palestinian cause and the state between Iraq and Kuwait. The Palestinian people are now exposed to the ugliest and most dangerous conspiracy targeting their very existence. It is perpetrated by the notorious war criminal Sharon who is following the U.S. greenlight and he would not stop until he is sure that there is no more a Palestinian entity or a future Palestinian independent state. Unless we stand up to this conspiracy now it would be too late. The GCC, in coordination of efforts with the other Arab countries grouped in the Arab League, should intensify efforts and join forces to adopt a stand preserving for the Arabs their honor and dignity as a deep-rooted nation.
The Iraqi-Kuwaiti issue is another question all the Arab regimes, particularly the GCC states, are called to exert all their efforts to solve. It is in the first place an inter-Arab issue and all the Arabs are responsible for finding a solution for it because its consequences and impact fall mainly on the Arabs.
Without any intention for belittling the sincere efforts exerted by the Arab League and the Arab Summit, the efforts of the GCC are very significant and effective in this respect. Hopes are now set on HM Sultan Qaboos bin Saeed of Oman, who chairs the 22nd GCC summit to play his role concerning the efforts for finding a solution to the state between Iraq and Kuwait in a manner satisfying all concerned parties and serves the Arab nation’s interests. Sultan Qaboos is well-known for his wisdom and keenness on Arab nation’s issues, so we are optimistic in the efforts he would make in this respect.