GCC at a critical juncture
The 38th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit highlighted the limits of this regional grouping but the announcement the same day of a new UAE-Saudi “cooperation and coordination” mechanism pointed to new possibilities in regional collaboration.
The unprecedented brevity of the GCC summit and the low level of representation at the December 5 gathering in Kuwait City demonstrated the extent to which the Qatari crisis had put a damper on expectations from the gathering.
Doha’s unwillingness to seriously address grievances of the Saudi-led Arab boycott did not leave much room for hope of tangible results from the summit. The meeting, which went on without the participation of the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini heads of state, nonetheless would have the credit of formally preserving the existence of the GCC as a functioning entity.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the key countries in the regional grouping, seemed, however, convinced of the pressing need for a more efficient approach in the face of regional challenges, not the least of which is Iran’s pursuit of hostile designs as illustrated by its support for its Houthi proxies in Yemen.
It came, therefore, as no surprise that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi announced a “joint coordination and cooperation committee” that would “bolster and coordinate relations between the two countries in the military, political, economic, commercial and cultural and other fields dictated by the interests of the two countries.”
“The new Saudi-UAE committee is bound to be seen as an alternative, if not substitute, to the malfunctioning GCC,” wrote Patrick Wintour, diplomatic editor of the Guardian.
The strategic vision behind the UAE-Saudi initiative reflects a keen awareness of the serious challenges facing the Gulf region. It also indicates the political will to urgently address such challenges.