Opinion and Editorial

The climate of transparency in AlUla inspires great optimism

Zuhair Al Harthi
Filed on January 10, 2021

Time for GCC to launch a new strategy amid international political realignment in the region

After the AlUla Summit, will the Gulf Dream be Fulfilled? It’s a big question, no doubt, and the answer could be more of a wish than a prediction. With that, everything is still possible; we are used to being pleasantly surprised by the Gulf states, as the Saudi Foreign Minister said, no matter the disputes within the same house, the Gulf leaders are capable of overcoming everything. Who expected, even just a few weeks ago, the Gulf reconciliation and the resumption of diplomatic ties? Or that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, would share a warm embrace upon the latter’s arrival to AlUla?

Three decades ago, Saddam Hussein embarked on an insane adventure when he invaded Kuwait. The bitter experience the people of the Gulf underwent revealed to us, then, a truth that we had not yet been aware of; our countries share the same fate, and threatening the security of one nation, inevitably, has implications for its sisters. Soon afterward, events in Bahrain came to enshrine this theory, as it became clear that Tehran had financed the fifth column, a fact revealed through the spy-cells exposed in several Gulf countries.

The Gulf reconciliation was crowned by Egypt’s presence, and the summit was held although optimists hadn’t expected it to take place. Of course, this is a mark of success for the Gulf bloc, which has been keen on maintaining its unity despite the storms, tornadoes, and events that have hit over the past few decades. The late Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah’s efforts are unforgettable, as are the efforts and enthusiasm of the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, and the United States. They, as well as geopolitical and other factors, pushed in the direction of resolving the Gulf rift.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud referred to a fundamental and pivotal aspect of the AlUla declaration signed by all in attendance when he said: “The members of the council underscored their solidarity and need to refrain from infringing on the security and sovereignty of any of their countries and the social fabric and security of their people.”

He also stressed that the summit “serves the supreme interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab national security”.

The statement is clear and sufficient. It became apparent that the era of flattery has passed and that speaking candidly is both useful and required. The pragmatic assessment reached by the Council’s states demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility and a high degree of courage. It also indicated a genuine awareness of the scope of the challenges facing them; they lived up to the occasion and were up to threats posed by the current state of affairs facing them. Regional circumstances and the critical nature of this historic phase call for profound solidarity, consciousness of the region’s history and an understanding of the geography’s sensitivity and complexity. For this reason, the Council has always been called upon to anticipate the projects being cooked up. Because of the danger of the threats surrounding it, the matter is no longer one of confrontation but of existence and survival.

In conclusion, we must rally around one another as Gulf citizens and think about our interests first. And as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “There is a desperate need today to unite our efforts to promote our region and confront challenges that surround us”, affirming that “a unified and strong Gulf Cooperation Council” is his country’s top policy priority. His message is one of support, commitment and a reiteration of Saudi Arabia’s position.

When we were suffering from poverty, ignorance and hardship, no one turned an eye to us. No one cared about our struggles, not the Turks, nor the Persians, nor others. When oil was discovered in the Gulf, they hurried into our way, searching for spoils, orchestrating conspiracies and schemes, and sowing discord to further their hidden agenda.

Will the Gulf Dream come to fruition? The political will at the AlUla summit was extraordinary, and when there is a will, there is a way. Thus, it is an exceptional critical phase that should be built on, such that the Council can launch a new strategy amid international political realignment in the region. This implies prioritising the collective’s interests, as they guarantee and safeguard the survival of the Gulf’s entity.

In fairness, the Council’s success hinges on the will of its members. The climate of transparency in AlUla inspires optimism and indicates the emergence of a qualitative development. True, the Gulf Cooperation Council was relatively, upon phases, successful at facing political and economic challenges, in addition to the wars that were ignited by regional states. And despite all of this, the entity remained intact. However, an issue remains concerning rules, structures and mechanisms on which the Council is built, as they no longer meet this era’s demands.

Saudi Arabia has already proposed the idea of forming a union. Then, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, presented his broad and extraordinary vision, which was approved by the Council in 2015, invigorating the Council’s role in what was a watershed moment in Gulf cooperation’s journey. The lofty vision encompassed several axes, including crystallising a unified foreign policy, taking the steps needed to culminate economic unity and common defence and security systems, and enhancing the Cooperation Council’s international standing and its role in resolving regional and international issues. Interestingly, the summit’s conclusions are fully aligned with the vision of King Salman. It set a schedule for implementing this vision and included mechanisms for following up on it.

The AlUla summit reinvigorated the Gulf council’s spirit. So let’s hope it will manage to unite efforts and bring about a united stance borne out of faith in its members’ common destiny, a will to safeguard their security and maintain their gains, and compete in a world that only believes in blocs.

— Asharq Al Awsat

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