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Gulf summit backs Egypt, praises Iran, warns Syria

Gulf Cooperation Council communiqué shows strong and growing support for Egypt's interim rulers

Amer Sultan in Kuwait, Thursday 12 Dec 2013
GCC
A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has pledged to back Egypt and oppose any “outside intervention” in its internal affairs.

Observers consider this pledge a strong message of support for Egypt's post-Mohamed Morsi leaders.

After a two-day summit in Kuwait, GCC leaders expressed their trust and confidence in “the Egyptian people's choices” – an implicit endorsement of Morsi's removal in July.

“The Supreme Council (of the GCC) expresses its eagerness to maintain [Egypt's] security and stability, and its people’s destiny,” the summit final's communiqué said.

This is the first clear collective message of support for Egypt's interim rulers from the Gulf group which includes Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

“This statement showed the GCC's clear position on Egypt,” analyst Erfan Nezameddine said.

“When the Gulf leaders say they support the Egyptian people's choices, they mean indirectly the roadmap,” Nezameddine added.

The roadmap was set out by Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi when Morsi was removed amid mass protests on 3 July.

The GCC's message of support for the Egyptian authorities was stronger than some observers had expected.

“Despite the fact that Qatar still takes a different policy on Egypt from the other GCC members, it is now clear that the gap between them can be, and is being, slowly bridged. It will take time and discussions," Professor Abdel-Khaleq Abdallah of United Arab Emirates University said.

Gulf leaders said they expected Egypt to regain its leading and historical status.

IRAN

While the Gulf States expressed concern about possible Iranian plans to build more nuclear plants, they hailed the approach of the new Iranian government led by Hassan Rouhani.

“The GCC welcomes the new orientation of the Iranian leadership towards the GCC,” the communiqué said.

It expressed hope this would be followed by concrete actions that would positively impact the peace, security and stability of the region.

“The Iranian-Gulf issue in the final communiqué reflects a positive compromise,” said Adel Darwish, a London-based Middle East analyst.

While the communiqué called on Iran to end “its occupation” of UAE islands and enter into negotiations or accept the Gulf Arab States' offer to go to the International Court of Justice on the issue, it is clear there is a strong wish to improve relations with Iran, he added.

The Gulf States “confirmed the importance of enhancing relations between the GCC and Iran on the basis of good neighborliness, nonintervention in internal affairs, and respect for the sovereignty of regional countries.

“The GCC offered an olive branch to Iran and extended its hand as a gesture of its good intentions,” Nezameddine said.

On the nuclear issue, there was consensus on welcoming the interim deal with Iran.

The communiqué described the deal as just the “first step towards an inclusive and lasting agreement that will end international and regional concerns.”

“The general sense is that there is a friendly and conciliatory approach towards Iran,” Darwish concluded.

SYRIA

The six GCC monarchies adopted a hard-line position on Syria, bluntly calling for President Bashar Al-Assad's removal.

“All the key regime figures with blood on their hands should have no role in either the transitional government or in Syria's political future,” the communiqué said.

At the last summit, hosted by Bahrain in December 2012, GCC leaders called for a “quick transition of political power in Syria” without Al-Assad.

“The situation in Syria changed a lot this year and the GCC cannot ignore the bloodshed,” a GCC diplomat told Ahram Online.

The GCC said it "strongly condemns the Assad regime's continued genocide against the Syrian people using heavy and chemical weapons... We call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria.”

Ahmad Jarba, leader of Syria's main opposition National Coalition, delivered a speech at the summit opening, appealing for urgent help from the Gulf countries.

The GCC leaders expressed their full support for the coalition, calling for the Geneva 2 talks to build on the first Geneva negotiations of June 2012, including forming a new transitional government with full executive powers in Syria.

This request ignores the Assad regime’s insistence on going to Geneva 2 to "negotiate a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, not to give up power.”

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