GCC pushes for stronger links with Nato

GCC pushes for stronger links with Nato
3 min read
13 December, 2014
Gulf state ministers propose strengthening strategic partnership to include Saudi Arabia and Oman to face regional threats including the Islamic State group
Stoltenberg and Attiyah both spoke of closer ties [AFP/Getty]

Gulf states are pushing to widen a strategic partnership with the Nato alliance as it faces regional threats including the Islamic State group, statements made after a joint conference in Doha last week suggest.

Mohammed Abdullah al-Rumaihi, an assistant to the Qatari foreign minister, said the GCC had proposed widening its partnership with Nato, known as the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and which currently only includes Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait, to include Saudi Arabia and Oman.

The GCC proposal also suggested changing the name of the agreement to "the NATO-Gulf Cooperation Initiative".

The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile expressed a similar in comments after the end of the conference.

"The security of the Gulf region is of strategic importance to NATO, just as security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area matter greatly to Gulf countries", he said. "There is a strong relationship focusing on practical aspects, especially capacity building, crisis management in addition to political dialogue."

     The GCC proposal also suggested changing the name of the agreement to 'the NATO-Gulf Cooperation Initiative'

The Nato-GCC conference, which concluded on Thursday, was closed to the public. But it is known that officials from Saudia Arabia and Oman were present - the first time they have been sent.

The Nato talks opened hours after the conclusion of the GCC's annual conference, also in Doha. The GCC's closing statement focused on regionional threats, including the Islamic State group and those who wish to interfere with internal GCC matters - a veiled reference to Iran.

In his statements, Stoltenberg pointed out that Kuwait had signed a cooperation agreement with Nato this year, hoping that other Gulf states would follow suit. He also said that "Saudi Arabia and Oman have not yet joined the initiative, but we have a strong relationship", and that terrorism was the main threat currently facing the Gulf.

Stoltenberg stated: "The growth of IS, and the violations against civilians in Iraq and Syria require huge international efforts, in which political and economic procedures complement military efforts".

The Qatari foreign minister, Khalid al-Attiyah, presented a vision at the conference's closing session, saying that any cooperation on terrorism should be coupled with reforms of the international system, especially the UN security council, to eliminate double standards - a veiled reference to Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

He called for "establishing equal relations between countries, so that international security does not remain threatened".

Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, meanwhile identified the growing threat of terrorism to the region, naming the Sunni IS, the Shia Hizballah movement and Iran as threats to the GCC.

Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, was set up to counter the Soviet threat during the cold war but has spread its membership across eastern Europe after the fall of communism. This has led to accusations it is overstepping its remit and threatening non-aligned states.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.