Bahrain pins high hopes on GCC summit at home

September 6, 2012

Bahrain is getting ready to host the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in December, the country’s foreign minister has said.

“We are working around the clock to be ready for the summit in Manama,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said. “The leaders’ meeting will build on the achievements accomplished at each of the past summits. The Manama summit will continue the trend of achievements. When you look at the larger picture, you see that the GCC has never regressed and that it has always moved forward. Today’s GCC is different from what it was 10 or 20 years ago,” he said, quoted by local Arabic daily Al Ayam on Tuesday.

However, a proposed union between the GCC countries will not likely be on the main agenda of the leaders’ summit, Shaikh Khalid said although he did recall that the GCC leaders at their summit in Riyadh in May had “agreed that a special summit would be held to discuss the latest developments on the union”.

In December, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz sought to rally fellow GCC states, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE saying it was time for the alliance to move from the phase of cooperation to a Gulf union within a single entity.

The six member states of the Council founded in 1981 in Abu Dhabi have reportedly agreed on the move, but hold different views on the pace at which such a transition should come about.

An ad-hoc commission, made up of 12 members, two from each member country, was set up to look into ways to implement the proposal and its report was submitted to the Council.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were openly enthusiastic about it, while other members said that more time was needed to achieve the transition. Enthusiasm for the move was so high in Manama and Riyadh that it gave rise to the thinking that the two countries should jointly work to speed up the initiative, possibly with Doha being part of it, with the other capitals joining in at a later stage.

However, the GCC leaders at their annual advisory summit in Riyadh in May said that more time was needed and that the initiative would be taken up by the council of foreign ministers.

In remarks made at the opening of the Korean embassy in Manama, Shaikh Khalid also reiterated Bahrain’s commitment to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

“We have been committed to the Movement since 1971 — Bahrain’s year of independence — and we have taken part in each of its summits regardless of where it is held,” he said.

The 16th summit, held last month in Tehran, waded into controversy after the Iranian interpreter distorted the speech delivered by Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi and replaced references to Syria with Bahrain in the Farsi translation.

Both Bahrain and Egypt protested the speech distortion and Manama demanded an apology from Tehran for the error as it summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in Manama and handed him the formal protest note. Iran has not yet sent back its ambassador to Bahrain after it recalled him in March last year, a day after Bahrain withdrew its ambassador from Iran. However, Manama last month reinstated its top diplomat in the Iranian capital.

Shaikh Khalid rejected criticism in Bahrain that the Foreign Ministry was slow in responding to the Iranians. “We waited to check the coverage details carefully before we formulated the response. When we became sure about the evidence, we issued our protest and it was on the same day as Egypt. We were never slow,” he said.



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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