GCC summit opens with call to end catastrophe in Syria
The UAE delegation to the summit is being led by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, opened the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit on Tuesday with a call for an end to the ‘human catastrophe’ in Syria.
He issued the plea as Ahmad Jarba, leader of Syria’s main oposition National Coalition, attended the opening of the summit and delivered a speech in which he appealed for urgent help from the Gulf states.
“The human catastrophe is still ongoing in Syria which calls on us to double efforts and work with the international community, especially the UN Security Council which has remained unable to put an end to this human tragedy,” Shaikh Sabah said.
The UAE delegation to the summit is being led by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Other members of the UAE delegation include Lt. General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior; Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister; Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister for Cabinet Affairs; Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy; Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, and senior officials.
The GCC leaders will discuss during the two-day summit a range of issues including the situation in Syria, ties with Iran and boosting economic cooperation between their member states.
Ties between GCC states and Iran have come under the spotlight after a landmark deal was reached last month between Tehran and world powers over its disputed nuclear programme.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif last week toured four GCC countries. Zarif tried to assure Gulf states the nuclear deal was not at their expense and called for a new page in relations.
In his speech, Shaikh Sabah said the Gulf states had “expressed their satisfaction with the interim Geneva deal... hoping it would succeed and lead to an everlasting agreement that would keep tension away from the region”.
This year’s summit is being staged over a Saudi proposal to upgrade the GCC into a confederation, a move Oman has opposed.
Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi said at the weekend that Muscat would pull out of the alliance if a union was announced, while Saudi Arabia said it was time to move ahead.
Kuwait’s State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah Al Sabah told reporters talks over the union were still ongoing.
“When consensus is reached, a special summit will convene in Riyadh to make the announcement,” he said, ruling out a major declaration at the Kuwait meeting.
Details on the confederation proposed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, in 2011 have not been disclosed.
Kuwait’s foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah told the official KUNA news agency on Tuesday that the summit would approve setting up a unified GCC military command.
The GCC states, which have a combined gross domestic product of $1.6 trillion, will also assess their economic integration projects, especially a slow-moving customs union and plans for a common currency.
On the back of high oil prices, the six nations, with a combined population of 47 million, almost half of them foreigners, have accumulated financial assets worth $2 trillion, expected to grow to $2.4 trillion in 2014.