GCC head denies major rift between Gulf states

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Gulf Cooperation Council. (Getty Images)

Gulf Cooperation Council. (Getty Images)

A Gulf union, a single currency, the Syrian crisis, Iran, youth unemployment and women empowerment will be key issues on the agenda at the biannual GCC Summit in Kuwait on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Heads of state and senior government officials of the six Gulf Cooperation Council members – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar – are meeting in Kuwait, which holds the rotating presidency.

The summit is expected to cover several controversial issues, including Oman’s comments this week that it would pull out of the 32-year-old bloc if ties were enhanced to form a fully-fledged union.

Saudi Arabia, closely supported by Bahrain, wants the council to be upgraded to a union similar to the European Union, which could include a single currency and closer security cooperation.

A single currency has been on the agenda for years with little progress. The UAE and Oman are strongly opposed to the idea, while the effects of the global financial crisis on the Euro are likely to delay the introduction of any Gulf currency.

The six-nation nuclear agreement reached last month between Iran and Western countries including the US and France will be a dominating issue.

Gulf states were not involved in the negotiations and have criticised the deal, while raising concerns that the US was softening its stance on the regime.

The GCC leaders also will discuss what they consider is the Iranian occupation of three UAE islands in the Gulf, the implementation of the Gulf-brokered power-transition deal in Yemen, and a plan to launch a joint GCC police force.

In a statement, GCC secretary general Abdullateef Al-Zayani said the summit was being held during an “extremely sensitive” time.

Dismissing claims there were major differences between the GCC members following Oman’s rejection of a union, Al Zayani suggested security resolutions would be announced during the summit.

"The defense integration is key to the regional security apparatus and it is on top of the agenda of the Gulf leaders," he said.

"The Gulf countries and their leaders are committed to the basic principles of not interfering in others’ affairs, holding regular dialogue to address conflicts, and clearing the region of weapons of mass destruction."

He said the summit also would review key issues such as boosting economic cooperation, human rights, environmental protection, healthcare and joint cultural projects, as well as the outcome of the GCC Customs Union and consider new measures to remove all customs barriers to facilitate trade between the countries.

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