GCC states agree non-interference pact

GCC states agree non-interference pact
Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council agree in Doha to coordinate more closely on regional foreign and defence policy.
3 min read
09 December, 2014
Riyadh, Manama and Abu Dhabi have returned their ambassadors to Doha [AFP]

GCC states laid months of tensions aside by agreeing to a joint statement on common security and non-interference. 

The Doha statement also declared support for Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The six-nation GCC met in Qatar in Tuesday, and announced their "full support to Egypt, the government and people in achieving its stability and prosperity" as well as for the "political programme of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi", in a final statement delivered at the end of the 35th GCC summit.

Qatar has faced off against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a group fiercely opposed by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. The Muslim Brotherhood have faced a severe crackdown in Egypt since Sisi led a coup that overthrew president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the organisation.

Doha publically backed Morsi and denounced the coup, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE have replaced Qatar as Egypt's main foreign backers.

Tensions between the GCC members had hit a low in March when Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced the withdrawal of their envoys from Qatar in protest at its "interference" in their internal affairs by supporting Islamists.

Egypt had already withdrawn its ambassador in February, although Doha has kept its envoy in Cairo. 

The GCC face a growing threat from extremism and falling prices of its main source of revenue, oil. 

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah called for heightened cooperation to face the sharp drop in oil prices which has "affected our revenues and development programmes".

He urged "strengthening our joint economic efforts" to face "any negative developments that could affect" economies of the six energy-rich nations.

The plummeting price of oil, which makes up around 90 percent of GCC public revenues, has fallen by about 40 percent since June, leaving the six member states facing a potential $300 billion loss in income compared with last year.

Oil prices have extended their losses since OPEC kept its production unchanged last month, under pressure from Gulf members led by Saudi Arabia seeking to defend their market shares.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar called for a joint regional effort to confront "terrorism".

Most GCC states are members of the US-led international coalition fighting militants from the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) group in control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Saudi and UAE warplanes have carried out raids on IS targets while Kuwait has provided the coalition with logistical support.

The GCC also called for Houthi rebels to withdraw from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which the Zaydi Shia group overran in September.

Gulf leaders urged an "immediate pullout of Houthi militiamen from all regions they seized, and the return of all civil and army state institutions to the authorities and handover of seized weapons."

Internal security

Analyst Abdelwahab Badrkhan believes the GCC reconciliation was motivated mainly by the threat posed by the rise of the Islamic State organisation in Syria and Iraq, which has prompted the Gulf monarchies to join a US-led campaign of air strikes targeting the group.  

The Gulf states "are concerned about their domestic security, which makes coordinating their security cooperation a must," he said. 

One Gulf official told AFP the summit will see the formation of a "joint military command" to coordinate anti-IS military action with their partners.

Badrkhan said that having overcome their divisions on the Syrian crisis, and promoting a political solution there, "GCC divergences persist on relations with Egypt and the regional role of Iran.”

GCC member Oman, which maintains good relations with Iran, acted out of step with its regional partners by hosting secret Iran-US discussions in 2011 and 2012, and mediating in crunch nuclear talks in November.