Saudi Arabia has said that a federation of Gulf Arab States is their internal matter and Iran should stay out of it. Earlier on Monday Gulf leaders agreed to allow more time for further discussions over a Saudi proposal to turn the six-nation council into a union likely to start with the kingdom and unrest-hit Bahrain.
The leaders who met in Riyadh have instructed their foreign ministers to “continue studying the report of the special commission,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
The ministers are expected to put forward their recommendations to an “extraordinary summit to be held in Riyadh,” he said without setting a time frame.
He said that the reason behind the apparent decision to put the proposal on the back burner was due to the “high importance of the matter and keenness to study it comprehensively.”
The nature of the proposal to turn the 31-year-old Gulf Cooperation Council into a union remains vague.
But the much anticipated union between Saudi Arabia and the fellow Sunni-ruled Bahrain has been slammed by legislators in Shiite Iran and criticised by the main Shiite opposition group in Bahrain.
Faisal asked Tehran to keep out of Saudi-Bahraini affairs.
“Iran has nothing to do with what happens between the two countries, even if it develops into a unity,” he told reporters, after Iranian MPs earlier on Monday condemned the planned union between the two neighbours.
King Hamad of Bahrain said upon arrival in Riyadh that the proposed Gulf union is a “response to changes and challenges that face us on international and regional fronts.”
The union was first floated by Saudi King Abdullah in December. Bahraini State Minister for Information, Samira Rajab, said it could follow the “European Union model.”
The consultative summit was expected to come out with some sort of a declaration of intentions, according to a GCC official quoted by the pan-Arab Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat on Monday.
The summit might lead to a “declaration of intentions on a union between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar” which Kuwait too might join, the official said.
Remaining GCC members, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — whose respective leaders Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan and Sultan Qaboos did not attend the Riyadh talks — would later join the union, the daily added.
Bahrain Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman said on Sunday the “option of a (GCC) union has become urgent,” adding that these nations must cooperate to ensure security in the region.
But the leader of Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition formation Al-Wefaq, cleric Ali Salman, said any union project must first be put to a referendum.
“The people of Bahrain alone have the right to” decide, he said, adding that the kingdom’s ruling “Al-Khalifa (dynasty) has no right to decide a union or confederation with any country.”
Iranian MPs condemned the planned union, news agencies reported Monday.
“Bahraini and Saudi rulers must understand that this unwise decision will only strengthen the Bahraini people’s resolve against the forces of occupation,” the MPs said in a letter, referring to Saudi military support for Manama that helped crush a Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain in March 2011.
The letter, read out in the 290-member parliament and signed by 190 MPs, warned that “the crisis in Bahrain will be transferred to Saudi Arabia and will push the region towards insecurity.”
Shiite-dominated Iran has repeatedly voiced support to the uprising in Bahrain and strongly condemned a deployment of Saudi-led forces in Shiite-majority Bahrain.
The GCC was formed in 1981 when the Sunni-dominated monarchies of the Gulf aimed to bolster security after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran which was followed by an eight-year war between Baghdad and Tehran. (AFP)