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GCC union ‘not on summit agenda’
December 10, 2013, 11:58 am

The GCC union proposal will not be on the agenda of today’s annual summit of Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in Kuwait, a Kuwaiti minister said.

The Kuwaiti minister of state for cabinet affairs Shaikh Mohammad Al Abdullah was quoted by regional media as saying that the Gulf union is off the agenda for today’s GCC summit, adding that Gulf leaders were “wise enough and capable of overcoming the difficulties and solve all issues facing the member states”.

“Oman has expressed its opinion on the Gulf union and we have to accept this idea, and through dialogue we can reach common ground… The union issue needs a vision and needs to be researched and studied,” he said.

Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yousef Bin Alawi said in a security conference in the Bahraini capital Manama on Saturday that while Oman would not stand in the way of member states turning the GCC into a confederation, it was opposed to the idea and would “simply withdraw” from the new body.

Kuwait had in recent weeks tried to mediate another dispute in the GCC, this one between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in an effort to unify GCC member states’ positions ahead of the summit. Shaikh Mohammad signalled that the dispute was over, saying: “You will see in the coming days that good relations bind the Gulf states”.

Oman’s rejection of the Gulf union prompted Bahrain’s prime minister to issue a statement on Sunday saying the union was “unavoidable”, and Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal saying that it was “inevitable” and could go ahead even without Oman’s participation.

On social networking site Twitter, a hashtag for Oman’s rejection of the union garnered over 150,000 tweets, with many Saudis suggesting that Oman’s decision served the interests of the kingdom’s regional rival Iran. Saudi-owned, London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat ran a top story on Monday with the headline: “Gulf fears of a Omani-Iranian efforts to dismantle the GCC”.

Gulf leaders are expected to discuss Iran’s resurgent role as it patches up relations with the West, as well as the future of the United States’ military presence in the region as the bloc’s guarantor of security. This comes amid speculation that America’s growing energy independence and its efforts to shift its focus to Asia may have it reassess its need to continue its military presence in the Gulf.

Also on the agenda of the summit, according to regional media, will be the civil war in Syria and the upcoming ‘Geneva 2’ peace talks, the GCC’s customs union, as well as issues such as human rights, education, disease control, the environment and cultural issues.


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