Enthusiasm for Gulf union remains strong

May 15, 2012

The decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to delay the expected announcement of a Gulf union did not seem to dampen enthusiasm for the proposal put forward by the Saudi monarch in December.

However, analysts in Bahrain said that the move should be given full and prompt attention to ensure it is not delayed.

King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud called for the GCC to move from the stage of cooperation to the stage of union within a single entity.

Reports and statements by senior officials, mainly in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, suggested that the 14th advisory summit in Riyadh on Monday would announce a union between at least two countries and that the other GCC members would join at a later stage.

However, the summit said that more time was needed to study the details further to ensure a smooth transition for all countries.

The council of foreign ministers will look into the report prepared by an ad-hoc committee of 18 members, three from each of the six member states.

The council will submit its recommendations to an extraordinary summit to be hosted by Riyadh, Saudi foreign minister Saud Al Faisal said at the press conference that followed the summit, but without giving a specific date.

“People understand that more time is needed for such a crucial development,” Jaber Mohammad, a political analyst, said. “The union may take time, but it will happen. Those who support it will wait for some time, but they will press for it in cases of unexplained delays,” he said.

A Bahraini society has already announced plans to hold a rally this weekend to press for the union.

Abdullah Abdul Hamid, a media specialist, said that he appreciated the extra time for more detailed studies of the option in the hope that the transition would happen more smoothly and very clearly. However, he too said that he wished the announcement would be made ahead of the GCC summit in Bahrain in December.

At the lower chamber, the decision to postpone the announcement did not seem to have affected the lawmakers’ fervour for the union and the MPs on Tuesday morning relayed to extol the significance of the Gulf union in confronting external threats and challenges.

“We have moved closer to the dream of the union,” MP Ahmad Al Saati said. “The GCC countries should carry on with their plans. We have been the target of threats for three decades and lived through three destructive wars. We have survived them and we insist on the union, particularly in light of the current circumstances,” he said.

The lawmakers’ enthusiasm for the Gulf union stance seemed to be fuelled by the strong opposition of some Iranian MPs to closer ties between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
On Monday, Iran’s Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that Bahrain was not a bite to be swallowed easily and that the plan to unify Bahrain and Saudi Arabia would result in negative effects and consequences.

“If Bahrain is to be integrated into another country, it must be Iran and not Saudi Arabia,” Larijani said, Irna news agency reported.

However, Bahraini MPs rejected the Iranian statements and were vociferous in their condemnation of the attitudes by Iran’s parliament and officials.

“We condemn the remarks by the Iranian parliament speaker,” Speaker Khalifa Al Dhahrani said. “We had expected him to be more balanced in his remarks.”

“The Iranian majlis has wronged Bahrain and the other GCC countries,” MP Abdullah Bin Huwail said. “Tehran does not care about the feelings of the Gulf citizens and is exporting threats to the GCC states. We tell them that such threats strengthen our resolve and determination to go ahead with the union because it spells further prosperity. There are members of majlis who are jealous of the GCC achievements.”

In his remarks, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice and Islamic minister, said that threats were often issued by the weak.

“The people in the GCC countries support the orientation towards the Gulf union,” he said.

On Monday evening, Bahrain hailed the support by the six member states to the proposal by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud for the council of the foreign ministers to continue the study of the report prepared by the committee tasked with looking into the call to mover from the phase of cooperation to the phase of union.

The measure is in line with the keenness of the GCC leaders on completing all the steps needed to achieve the union and fulfill the aspirations of the GCC citizens for greater security and stability and better lives, Bahrain said in a statement.

Experts said that the Gulf union would make the GCC countries a powerful economic bloc with a GDP exceeding $1.4 trillion and a single market strength of 42 million people, with 65 per cent of them under the age of 30.

In Saudi Arabia, the largest of the GCC states, the media reported on the possibility for all member states to join the union, and not just two or three states.

The London-based Arabic daily Al Sharq Al Awsat, citing a study by the Institute of Diplomatic Studies, said that the union for the GCC states was not an option, but rather an issue of existence.

The study said that the Gulf union would have a military force of 360,000 members.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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