The annual summit of GCC leaders concluded its deliberations in Kuwait City, adopting a spate of key decisions, including the formation of a joint military command that would strengthen the six-member group’s defense capabilities amid growing challenges.
The summit endorsed “the formation of a joint military command for the Gulf Cooperation Council states, as well as the establishment of a Gulf academy for strategic and security studies,” the final communiqué said.
The GCC states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE, formed the Peninsula Shield force in 1982 as a 5,000-strong force, but has since expanded to more than 30,000 troops.
Fahd Al-Shulaimi, president of Gulf Security and Peace Forum, emphasized the significance of the joint military command and said it would strengthen GCC military cooperation.
“There is a difference between the Peninsula Shield and the joint command, as the latter will coordinate joint efforts and set out plans to confront threats. Its main goal is to bolster the defense of GCC states,” he told Al-Arabiya news channel.
The two-day summit called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from war-ravaged Syria and praised Iran’s new government for its shift in policy. It also agreed to set up a GCC police force.
“We look forward to work with Iran for the stability of the Gulf region,” Kuwaiti Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, told reporters.
He urged Tehran to reassure Gulf residents to quell their concerns about its controversial nuclear program.
“Iran should also implement the nuclear deal it has signed with western powers,” the minister said.
Sabah said the GCC countries had not asked the six western countries, which signed the deal with Iran in Geneva last month, to include them in nuclear talks. He, however, said the GCC was following up on talks through its friends.
The summit leaders postponed a decision on a proposed union, apparently over differences. Sheikh Sabah said contacts and consultations had been continuing to transform the GCC into a powerful Gulf union.
He said the participation of GCC parliamentarians and youth leaders in the summit was a significant development.
The summit adopted a firm position on Syria. The GCC “strongly condemned the continued genocide that (Bashar) Assad’s regime is committing against the Syrian people by using heavy and chemical weapons.” It called “for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria,” in a clear reference to Iran-backed militias, including Hezbollah, which are supporting Assad’s troops.
Sheikh Sabah said the summit wanted a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis to end the human catastrophe. The GCC backed the Syrian National Coalition’s position that Assad play no role in any political transition.
“Pillars of the Syrian regime, whose hands had been stained by the blood of the Syrian people, must have no role in the transitional government or Syria’s political future,” the communiqué said.
Brushing aside differences with Iran on Syria, the GCC leaders praised the Islamic republic’s overtures to their countries.
“We welcome the new orientation by the Iranian leadership toward the GCC and hope it will be followed by concrete measures that would positively impact regional peace,” said the communiqué, read out by GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani.
The Gulf leaders also welcomed the interim deal signed by the P5+1 and Iran “as a first step toward an inclusive and lasting agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that would end international and regional concerns.”
Speaking on rapprochement with Tehran, the Kuwaiti foreign minister said GCC countries are keen to establish good relations with Iran, adding that the new Iranian government has given “positive indications.”