(MENAFN - Arab News) Prince Saud Al-Faisal, minister of foreign affairs, said in Riyadh yesterday the proposed Gulf union will protect member states from common security threats and make this regional grouping a powerful economic bloc with a GDP exceeding more than 1.4 trillion.
Prince Saud called on the Gulf governments to move to "a phase of union with full integration of key affairs to give greater impetus and strength to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)."
Prince Saud's speech was read out by Prince Abdulaziz, deputy foreign minister, at a high-profile conference entitled "Gulf Youth: From GCC to Gulf Union" in the capital.
Prince Saud, who backed unity efforts among the Gulf states, sought to unify policies governing defense and diplomacy to counter threats from Iran, and to face common challenges in the region and the world at large. The two-day conference, the first of its kind in terms of political content, has been organized by the Institute of Diplomatic Studies (IDS).
The IDS, a premier organization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been entrusted with the task to discuss and debate diplomatic, political and foreign policy matters. The opening ceremony was attended by Abdullateef Al-Zayani, GCC secretary general, and IDS Director General Abdulkarim Aldekhayel. A large number of youth from different GCC member states attended the conference. The event has been divided into seven sessions to discuss diverse youth-related issues.
Referring to the process of GCC integration, Prince Saud said: "The march of integration of the GCC states is a successful experience at both the Arab and Islamic levels. The survival of the Council itself, its achievement of numerous accomplishments and its handling of many challenges indicate the strength of the GCC. But, the shift to the status of union would give greater force in terms of geo-strategic importance and in the domain of global affairs."
He added: "The conference comes at a time where all GCC leaders, decision-makers and think-tanks are generously thinking on finding means to face current challenges at political, social and economic forums and their impact on GCC societies.
"All developments in the region, including Iran's nuclear program and its continued provocation against the GCC, suffering of the Palestinian people and "Arab Spring" fallouts, have led us to think on how to deal with such developments in the best interests of the GCC," he added.
A single entity comprising the Gulf states can deal with all these challenges in a strong way, said the prince, while referring to the proposal made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. The GCC leaders endorsed the proposal to transform the GCC into a union of member states on Dec. 20 last year in their summit held in Riyadh. He said the GCC states, once integrated into a union, will have more "bargaining power" in regional and global affairs.
"In the economic field, the Gulf union will make the GCC countries a powerful economic bloc with a GDP exceeding 1.4 trillion and a single market strength of 42 million people," said the prince. Prince Saud also highlighted the importance of the youth in societies across the Gulf states, saying that more than 65 percent of the total population of the countries are under the age of 30.
Speaking on this occasion, GCC chief Al-Zayani appreciated the idea of bringing together the GCC youth and allowing them to hold open discussions on the GCC affairs. Turning to the GCC, he said the council has now surpassed 30 years since its birth and remained a solid entity in serving its member states and their interests, security and stability. "With the emergence of internal and external changes, the GCC priorities and strategies have inevitably changed to cope with new challenges," said Al-Zayani.
He also spelled out some strategies that will go a long way in making the Gulf bloc a force to reckon with. These strategies include protection of the GCC member countries from internal and external threats including terrorism, organized crimes and inter-GCC criminal activities, keeping strength of the GCC economy in areas related to industry, commerce and finance; and realizing the goal in terms of human development. This is in addition to empowering the GCC countries on how to deal with disasters and bolstering international standing of the GCC countries in solving regional and international problems.