Gaza and Monetary Union in Focus at GCC Summit

MUSCAT - Israel’s air strikes on Pales tinians in Gaza may top the agenda, but will not derail Gulf Arab leaders’ plans to sign monetary union pacts, at the 29th GCC Summit in the Omani capital of Muscat.

By Saleh Al Shaibany

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Published: Mon 29 Dec 2008, 1:01 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:17 PM

“The issue (Gaza) will impose itself on the agenda. The events of yesterday will have their deserved place in the discussions,” Information Minister Hamad Al Rashdi told Reuters.

But Gulf Arab rulers gathering on Monday and Tuesday are still expected to approve a long-planned pact to take them one step closer to issuing a single currency. “There is nothing to stop the GCC to sign the monetary agreement,” Abdulmalik Al Hinai, Undersecretary for Economic A?airs at Oman’s Ministry of National Economy, told Khaleej Times.

More than 280 Palestinians were killed in 24 hours of Israeli attacks in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical o?cials said on Sunday.

The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), political and economic alliance of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, on Saturday described the Israeli attacks as “barbaric” and “ugly”, and Saudi Arabia urged the United States to intervene to end the strikes.

The GCC meeting could be followed by an Arab summit on Friday.

The Arab League has delayed until Wednesday an emergency foreign ministers’ meeting called to take a common position on the raids because many of them were busy in separate meetings of two Arab regional groups — the GCC and the Maghreb Union.

Gulf states have yet to agree on where the joint central bank would be located, which could be decided on Monday, Hinai said.

“They have not agreed on that. At least three of them want it,” he said. “They will discuss the monetary union and issue the agreement of the monetary union and the basic law of the monetary council.

“Saudia Arabia says since it’s the biggest (economic) power in the region, it would serve well to have the monetary union headquarter there. United Arab Emirates and Qatar have asked for it as well. It is a matter of an agreement for the location of the headquarters but the resolve to have a monetary system is firmly on the ground,” he said.

Mohamed al-Mazrooei, an assistant to the GCC Secretary General for economic affairs, said the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain have submitted proposals to host the bank while Saudi Arabia has expressed its interest without making an official request.

Al Hinai said Oman supported the monetary union but would not be part of any single currency arrangement.

“We are a small economy and there is a lot to implement. It is not in our plan at the moment,” he said. Global economic concerns are also expected to weigh on the meeting.

Oil prices have collapsed to about a quarter of their peak in July, putting an end to the Gulf region’s economic boom. The credit crunch is derailing expansion projects and Gulf Arab bourses have tumbled sharply this year.

Rulers would also discuss a proposal to extend by a year the time period to implement a regional customs union, Hinai said.

Gulf states had yet to reach a deal on how to distribute customs revenues, an issue that should be resolved by the end of next year following a consultancy study, he said.

Also on the agenda are talks over the progress of their common market, global free trade agreements, a proposed regional water grid, how to further economic cooperation with Yemen and a regional economic and social development plan, he added. Gulf states have been discussing monetary union for decades but only set the 2010 deadline for a single currency in 2001.

Al Hinai said the Summit will also discuss a deadlock in negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union and might try to resolve the situation.

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