Kuwait defuses Gulf summit tension over Union issue

Amer Sultan in Kuwait city, Tuesday 10 Dec 2013

Oman's opposition to creation of Gulf Union draws criticism from neighbors, forces Kuwait to mend relations ahead of Tuesday's GCC summit

Omani FM
Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi (Photo:Reuters)

Kuwait was left scrambling to repair tensions with other Gulf countries ahead of a GCC summit in its country on Tuesday, after Oman announced its opposition to the formation of a Gulf States Union.

The idea of the union between the oil-rich Gulf states had been first proposed by Saudi Arabia two years ago. Kuwait and Bahrain supported the plan.

Oman, however, has said that it opposes upgrading the relations of the GCC's six members to that of a full union.

While Oman would not try to prevent the union, it will not be a part of it if it happens, said Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi at last week's Manama Dialogue in Bahrain. He said that such a union would stir regional conflicts with Iran, which would likely see the union has a military alliance against it.

Oman's opposition drew angry reactions from other Gulf countries.

The Kuwaiti government tried to defuse tension before the start of Tuesday's summit, saying that it was still early for the creation of the union.

"The issue still needs careful thinking, more consideration and exploration of the views of all parties," said Sheikh Mohamed Al-Abdallah, Kuwait's cabinet minister and head of the Conferences Supreme Committee.

He added that will not happen at the Kuwait summit, but at a future one.

The Kuwaiti minister's remarks were widely seen as a way of avoiding a potential diplomatic crisis which could jeopardize the summit.

Relations between the GCC and Iran have now replaced the union as the priority for Kuwait's summit on Tuesday, the first gathering after the recent interim nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers, including the United States.

The secretary general of the GCC, Abdel-Latif Al-Zayani, said that the nuclear deal creates "extraordinary and critical circumstances” which the GCC summit should deal with.

Al-Zayani called on Gulf states to “study the consequences of these circumstances to guarantee the protection of GCC achievements and the interests of the Gulf region’s peoples.”

Observers in Kuwait have not ruled out the possibility of Saudi Arabia insisting at the Kuwaiti summit for other GCC leaders to grant the oil-rich kingdom a chance to participate in future talks between Iran and world powers regarding the finalization of the nuclear deal.

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