Saudi Arabia and Qatar have restored full diplomatic relations after a historic summit of the six nation Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which brought to an end the three year old rift between the two countries that saw borders closed and a war of words that sometimes appeared out of control.
On Tuesday morning (5 January), the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani arrived in the Saudi historic city of al Ula where the summit was being held, to be greeted by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman. Both men were wearing masks because of coronavirus protocols, and were careful not to shake hands. But then spontaneously they embraced each other for several seconds - a warm embrace that signalled to the whole world that the rift was over, and that the Gulf states were ready to turn the page and face the future together.
The theme of unity and solidarity dominated the summit, and was the basis of the document signed by the leaders at the end of the meeting, the Al Ula Declaration.
The results of the Al Ula Summit have been welcomed by international organisations, including the UN and the EU. In a statement issued in Brussels on Wednesday (6 January), EU High Representative on Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrell, welcomed the results of the Al Ula Summit, stating:
The European Union welcomes these significant developments as they will considerably strengthen regional stability and restore GCC unity and cooperation in full. We commend in this respect the mediation role played by Kuwait all along, as well as by the US. The EU stands ready to support further regional integration within the Gulf Cooperation Council and to strengthen its long-standing partnership with the GCC.
This is the full text of the Al Ula declaration:
"The 41st Summit of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) affirms the commitment of the Member States to the goals stipulated in the GCC Charter:
To achieve coordination and integration between the Member States in all fields to eventually reach a union of states.
To achieve security, peace, stability, and prosperity in the region by working as a single, unified economic and political group and contribute to realizing security, peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
The outcomes of the 41st GCC Summit, which was titled “Summit of Sultan Qaboos and Sheikh Sabah”, reflects the hopes and aspirations of the region’s peoples to restore collaboration among all Member States to its natural path, and further strengthen the bonds of brotherhood among them.
The signature of the Arab Republic of Egypt on the Al-Ula Statement confirms the strengthening of diplomatic relations between Egypt and GCC states. This confirmation extends from the GCC Charter, which stipulates that coordination, cooperation and integration between the GCC states aims to reinforce and serve Arab interests.
The world’s answers to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated what can be achieved when the global community works together.
During the presidential term of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the G20 states managed to accomplish unprecedented achievements in this area. Responding to the pandemic and its effects requires robust GCC coordination, particularly in the following areas:
The full implementation of the vision put forth by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the 36th GCC Summit in December 2015. This includes abiding by a timetable, the completion of economic integration, the implementation of joint defense and security systems, and a unified foreign policy for the Member States.
Establishing and running the Gulf Center for Disease Prevention and Control, which was approved by the 41st GCC Summit based on the vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz to coordinate efforts in combating COVID-19 and other epidemics.
Completing the requirements for the Customs Union and the Common Gulf Market. This includes achieving full economic citizenship that grants citizens of GCC countries the freedom to work, move and relocate, and invest in the Member States. As well as equal access to education and health care, the construction of the Gulf railway network, the creation of food and water security systems, and continuing to encourage joint projects that localize investment in the Gulf.
Utilizing the advanced cooperation frameworks developed during the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency in all sectors. This includes economic stimulus and business initiatives, enhancing civil society institutions, empowering women and youth in economic development, and encouraging digital entrepreneurship. In turn, the Supreme Council tasks the General Secretariat to follow up and develop programs to execute the mentioned objectives in collaboration with specialist consultancies.
Developing technical capabilities at government entities, including artificial intelligence to ensure quick and efficient execution of services. Upgrading school curriculums, healthcare, e-commerce, and enhancing relations between the Council and the Digital Cooperation Organization established in 2020 to further advance digitization goals among the Member States.
Strengthening governance, transparency, accountability, integrity, and anti-corruption mechanisms through Joint-Gulf action and in all entities of the GCC, including its specialized bureaus. As well as benefiting from the agreements of the G20 framework and the “Riyadh Initiative” pertaining to cooperation in investigations of cross-border corruption and the prosecution of the perpetrators in order to mitigate the impact corruption has on economic growth, sustainable development, and mutual trust between governments and their peoples.
Stemming from the Joint-Defense Agreement and the principle of collective security for GCC countries: Further military integration among GCC countries under the supervision of the Joint-Defense Council, the Supreme Military Committee, and the unified military leadership of the GCC, to face emerging challenges.
Continuing the actions taken by the GCC countries, and the G20 headed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to confront the pandemic and mitigate its effects locally, regionally, and internationally, including assisting underdeveloped countries in health and economic fields.
Strengthening the regional and international role of the GCC by unifying policy and developing strategic partnerships between the GCC and other states, groups, regional organizations, and international organizations in the interest of serving common goals.
The “Sultan Qaboos and Sheikh Sabah Summit” reaffirms the keenness of the leaders of the countries of the GCC to reinforce the Council’s strengths, realize the aspirations of the citizens of the Gulf, and overcome all obstacles that hinder collaboration among Member States."
source: commonspace.eu with various media outlets
photo: The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman, showing the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani around the historic city of Al Ula on a day when the Gulf region stood united for the first time in years.