The leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will bind their preexisting cooperation agreements into an alliance on a number of aspects, from the economic to the military, at their yearly two-day summit, slated to begin later on Monday.
''Our priority is to define and complete precautionary defensive measures against every type of threat, from the military to the environmental,'' said Bahraini Foreign Affairs Minister Khalid Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa.
But details of the new alliance, which Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz began promoting last year, have not yet been finalized. The official announcement of the birth of the union has been posponed, and will be done in an extraordinary summit to be held in Riyadh, according to the minister. The new Gulf Union should replace the existing GCC, which was founded in 1981 and has a common market and a unified defense, and is working toward a single currency. Also at this year's summit, Syria and Iran will dominate the foreign policy agenda. However unlike in the case of Yemen, the GCC will not be launching any common initiatives to secure a regime change in Syria, according to Council Secretary General Abdul Latif al-Zayani. This is spite of the fact that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have taken clear stances on Syria, financing the rebels and calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. While the Gulf monarchies have not openly denounced Iran's nuclear program, its ambitions have not failed to awaken their suspicion and concern. Iran has also been accused of interfering in its neighbors' internal affairs, especially in Bahrain, which has a majority Shiite population. Another issue on the table will be three contested islands at the mouth of the highly strategic Strait of Hormuz. Called Abu Musa, Big Tumb and Little Tumb, they are claimed by the UAE but were occupied by Iran 30 years ago. (ANSAmed).