Gulf leaders agree on unified military command at Bahrain summit

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The annual summit of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) concluded in the Bahraini capital Manama on Monday with a call for closer economic integration and unity in the face of rising security challenges in the region.

The Secretary General of the Gulf bloc announced that Gulf ministers agreed on the establishment of a unified military command and confirmed a move towards a Gulf Union.

The final statement from the summit also demanded Iran end what they called interference in Gulf Arab affairs, reiterating the six U.S. allies' long-held mistrust of their regional rival.

A communiqué issued at the end of a two-day summit of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also called on the international community to bring a swift end to massacres and violations of international law in Syria.

On Monday, the first day of the summit, Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz expressed the kingdom’s hope for the declaration of a Gulf Union.

“We aspire to a strong union with integrated economies, a joint foreign policy and a common defense system,” Prince Salman said.
Meanwhile, King Hamad of host country Bahrain called for the GCC to provide “a security umbrella for its peoples” and urged “economic complementarity” between its six member states.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Kuwait’s emir, called for humanitarian aid for Syrian civilians and urged Iran to reach a peaceful settlement with neighbors, including over three Gulf islands in dispute with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He announced a donor conference for civilians caught up in the Syrian conflict to be held at the end of January at the request of the United Nations.

In an exclusive statement to Al Arabiya, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the GCC was concerned by Iran’s nuclear activity, and the Bushehr reactor in particular. He added that the lack of transparency by Iran on its program has raised suspicions over whether the nuclear activity is intended for peaceful purposes.

The two-day summit was to focus on strengthening “Gulf unity... especially politically, economically, in defense, security and culturally,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa had said.

Last week, Bahrain said an announcement over a union of the six member states would not be made at the summit.

A Gulf union would supersede the existing GCC and bring member states even closer.

In November, the six Gulf states recognized a newly-formed opposition bloc as the Syrian people's legitimate representative.

The GCC members -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- were the first to recognize the opposition coalition.

"The states of the council announce recognizing the National Coalition... as the legitimate representative of the brotherly Syrian people," GCC chief Abdullatif al-Zayani said.

He said the oil-rich bloc would support the coalition in the hope that "this will be a step towards a quick political transfer of power."

The overall gross domestic product in 2011 of the GCC states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia -- amounted to 1.37 trillion dollars, a diplomatic source said.

In 2003, they launched a symbolic customs union which has been beset with problems, failing to meet its target date of 2005, with the transition period systematically extended to 2015.

And a monetary union announced in 2009 with the aim of creating a common currency has also failed to materialize, with just four nations -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia -- signing up to it.

The six have also discussed plans to expand a security treaty they signed in 1994 with the aim of increasing security cooperation in the face of the Arab uprisings, sources said.

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