UAE, Saudi Arabia initiate two-nation council to boost cooperation
LONDON - Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) linchpins Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had the first meeting of their joint council to strengthen relations outside the six-country bloc.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz hosted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on June 6 for the first Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council meeting. They announced a joint vision for economic, developmental and military integration, a strategy that has been dubbed “Ala’Azm,” Arabic for “determination.”
An official statement said the council would “develop a joint vision to deepen bilateral relations in line with the objectives set by the Gulf Cooperation Council to strengthen economic integration between the two sides.” It would also work to strengthen cooperation on politics, security and defence to improve “the global sovereign standing of the two countries.”
“We have a historic opportunity to create an exceptional Arab model of cooperation. Our solidarity and unity protect our interest, strengthen our economies and build a better future for our peoples,” Sheikh Mohammed was quoted as saying in an English-language report on Al Arabiya TV.
“We are the two largest Arab economies, forming the two most modern armed forces. The economies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE represent a gross domestic product of $1 trillion, our joint exports rank fourth globally and amount to $750 billion, ($40.8) billion annually invested in infrastructure projects, which generates huge opportunities for bilateral cooperation,” he added.
A total of 44 joint projects, focusing mostly on military and economic ventures, were announced at the Jeddah meeting. They are to be implemented in the next five years.
The new strategy includes “security and military cooperation and integration, coordination of foreign military assistance and standardisation in the military industry sector.”
Security cooperation would incorporate initiatives, including manufacturing of ammunition, light weapons, vehicles, electronic shooting systems and the coordination of foreign military assistance, cooperation in the maintenance of military systems and standardisation of the military industry.
The joint projects include investments in the energy sector, unified food security projects and a $1.4 billion agricultural investment firm. Organisers plan to set up a fund for nuclear energy and a council to coordinate more than $1.3 trillion in foreign investments.
The new council was established under a May 2016 agreement between the two countries with the objective of enhancing “shared religious, historical, social and cultural ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia… out of keenness to consolidate the fraternal relations between them and their desire to intensify bilateral co-operation through continuous consultation and coordination in many areas,” a statement by the UAE government said.
There is a strong belief that disputes with fellow GCC member Qatar was a catalyst in establishing the council.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar in June 2017. The boycotting countries said Doha’s support of Islamist militant groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as its ties with Iran was against the Arab region’s interests.