The forthcoming summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) due in Doha on Tuesday is of special significance, given its timing, on-table dossiers, and swiftly evolving regional and international developments.
The 44th edition of the GCC summit, or Doha 44, comes at a time when the Middle East region is undergoing a critical time due to the Israeli occupation’s aggression on the Gaza Strip since October 7.
Since then, at least 15,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been martyred and more than 36,000 others injured, not to mention thousands of missing children and women from different cities and areas in the Palestinian territory.
In response to the ongoing atrocities in occupied Palestinian territories, regional and international parties in general and Qatar in particular have been doing their utmost to halt the Israeli occupation’s aggression on the enclave.
These efforts have produced a temporary humanitarian pause and the release of a number of prisoners from both Palestinian and Israeli occupation sides.
In the meantime, the Gulf countries are stepping up endeavors to address regional and international challenges, promote peace, ensure regional stability, help the population of the Gaza Strip, shore up permanent ceasefire efforts, and push forward a sustainable solution for the Palestinian cause, primarily based on the two-state approach.
“Doha 44” is the first Gulf summit to be held outside Saudi Arabia in five years as Riyadh hosted the last five ordinary GCC gatherings following an amendment that allows the kingdom, the country that hosts the Gulf bloc’s headquarters, to host the gathering.
It will be the seventh time for Qatar to play host to the Gulf Summit following the gatherings of 1983, 1990, 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2014.
The Gulf leaders are expected to mainly look into how to stop the Israeli occupation aggression on the Palestinian territory and to ensure a fair settlement to the Palestinian cause, including an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem being its capital.
The agenda of the Doha gathering also covers the necessity of completing the Gulf customs union before the end of 2024, as having been recommended during the 43rd summit in the Saudi capital.
In this context, officials met in Muscat in October and adopted a set of laws and resolutions aiming at promoting economic integration in the Gulf region, leading up to economic unity by 2025.
This came in response to the Gulf leaders’ directives aiming at promoting the region’s economic environment and ensuring economic stability.
The planned Gulf customs union and joint market are chiefly based on single customs duties, a uniform customs legal system and single customs, financial and administrative procedures pertinent to importing, exporting and re-exporting.
Also among the significant subjects to be considered during the event is a joint Gulf railway project that was approved in 2003 when the leaders had asked the bloc’s transportation committee to conduct a relevant feasibility study.
The project will link the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman together in the first phase, while the second one will include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
During the Middle East Rail Conference held in Abu Dhabi on May 16, 2023, GCC SecretaryGeneral Jassem Al-Budaiwi reaffirmed that the six GCC member states were going ahead with efforts to complete the railway project.
He spoke highly of the project as being a significant step towards joint integration in the Gulf region.
Furthermore, the tourist visa issue is also expected to be on the agenda of the gathering as part of the Gulf tourist visa strategy for 2023-2030.
The strategy is meant to boost the number of incoming flights into Gulf countries on an annual basis of seven percent at a time when the number of visitors hit 38.8 million last year, a growth rate of 136.5 percent, compared to 2021.
The target is to increase the number of tourists into Gulf countries up to 128.7 million by 2030.
The tourist visa project, which has already been approved by the interior ministers of the GCC member states, is most likely to be put in place by the end of 2025.
In addition, the Gulf leaders have been attaching much attention to joint military cooperation since the bloc was created in 1981 only out of firm conviction that they share the same goal, destiny, geographical facts and common history.
On November 22, 2021, the Gulf ministers of defense inaugurated the united Gulf military command headquarters in the Saudi capital, replacing the Peninsula Shield Force Command.
This came in response to the Gulf leaders’ resolution to rename the command with a view to upgrading the level of inter-Gulf security and military coordination and cooperation. (KUNA)