The Ruler of Kuwait H H Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah receives the Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at the 34th GCC summit at Al Bayan Palace in Kuwait City yesterday. Clock-wise FROM top LEFT: Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, UAE Vice-President Sheikh Muhammed bin Rashid Al Makthoum, Omani Deputy Premier Fahd bin Mahmud Al Said and the King of Bahrain H M Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at the summit.
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s Emir H H Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah opened an annual Gulf summit yesterday with a call for an end to the “human catastrophe” in Syria.
He issued the plea as Ahmad Jarba, leader of Syria’s main oposition National Coalition, attended the opening of the summit and delivered a speech in which he appealed for urgent help from the wealthy Gulf states.
“The human catastrophe is still ongoing in Syria which calls on us to double efforts and work with the international community, especially the UN Security Council which has remained unable to put an end to this human tragedy,” Sheikh Sabah said.
The leaders of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are due to discuss during the two-day summit a range of issues including the situation in Syria, ties with Iran and boosting economic cooperation between their member states.
Only three leaders are attending, the rulers of Qatar, Bahrain and host country Kuwait.
The Saudi crown prince is representing the ailing King Abdullah, while Oman is represented by the deputy premier and the United Arab Emirates by its vice-president and prime minister.
Ties between Sunni-ruled GCC states and neighbouring Shia Iran have come under the spotlight after a landmark deal was reached last month between Tehran and world powers over its disputed nuclear programme.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last week toured four GCC countries, but not Saudi Arabia or Bahrain.
Zarif tried to assure Gulf states the nuclear deal was not at their expense and called for a new page in relations, although Saudi Arabia in particular appears to remain sceptical.
In his speech, Sheikh Sabah said the Gulf states had “expressed their satisfaction with the interim Geneva deal... hoping it would succeed and lead to an everlasting agreement that would keep tension away from the region”.
This year’s summit is being staged amid differences over a Saudi proposal to upgrade the GCC into a confederation, a move Oman has publicly rejected.
Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi threatened at the weekend that Muscat would pull out of the loose alliance if a union was announced, while Saudi Arabia, solidly backed by Bahrain, insisted it was time to move ahead.
Kuwait’s State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al Sabah told reporters talks over the union were still ongoing.AFP