KUWAIT CITY: Gulf Arab states will hold a summit this week to discuss a controversial proposal to form an European Union-like coalition at a time of regional turmoil and fresh Iranian overtures.
Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich monarchies, already rattled by the turmoil unleashed by the 2011 Arab Spring, fear a landmark nuclear agreement reached last month could herald a wider rapprochement between the West and their regional rival Iran.
But a proposal to develop the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a fully-fledged union has proven divisive, with Oman threatening to leave the GCC if the idea is approved. The group also includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
“The summit is held amid extremely sensitive and delicate situations that require member states to study the consequences for the GCC,” Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani said ahead of the two-day summit, which opens on Tuesday in Kuwait.
The summit comes a week after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited four GCC states to reassure them over the interim nuclear agreement, which would freeze some of Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for some sanctions relief.
Relations with Iran “are entering a new space different from the past. A space that is extremely positive and constructive,” Kuwait’s foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah told reporters after Zarif’s visit.
But Zarif did not visit the most important GCC member, Saudi Arabia, although he said he plans to do so in the future.