Gulf states ‘concerned’ about Iran

Gulf nations step up appeals to the West for a greater voice in renewed talks with Tehran over its nuclear programme.

The leaders also underlined their support for the ‘establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state’

Gulf Arab nations have said that they are watching Iran’s nuclear ambitions with “utmost concern”.

The six nations, meeting in their annual summit under the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also stepped up their appeals to the West for a greater voice in the renewed talks with Tehran.

The GCC is comprised of the oil rich states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The two-day summit, which closed on Tuesday, was the first gathering of the Gulf’s sheiks and monarchs since leaked US diplomatic memos displayed their behind-the-scenes fears of Iran’s nuclear aims.

Revelations in some of the leaked cables included some Gulf leaders encouraging American military action against Iran over its nuclear programme.

The call for the attack, said the leaked cables, was led by Saudi Arabia whose ailing king Abdullah missed the summit as he is undergoing surgery in New York.

Iran holds frequent military drills along the Persian Gulf – primarily to assert an ability to defend against any US or Israeli attack on its nuclear sites – but also sending a message to Arab neighbours on its southern doorstep.

Military ties

The US, which keeps naval forces in the region, has close military ties with Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as other nations on the Arab side of the waterway and has stationed missile defence systems there.

The WikiLeaks disclosures also served to highlight what has been taking shape for years in the Gulf: a growing confidence to challenge and try to influence the strategies of their Western allies.

The GCC meeting appeared to cast off a bit of its traditional caution and adopt a harder tone, with the bloc warning Iran not to interfere in Gulf Arab affairs. They also called on it to reject “force or the threat to use it”.

But the Gulf leaders are also flexing their muscles over the resumption of talks between world powers and Iran, which wrapped up in Geneva on Tuesday with plans to meet early next year in Turkey.

A senior Gulf delegate at the Abu Dhabi meetings said the leaders will press harder for an ongoing “exchange of information” with the West and will no longer be content for a sideline role.

The envoy spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

The message was clearly spelled out last week by the United Arab Emirate’s foreign minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a security conference in Bahrain.

“Why do Western countries think that the Iranian issue concerns only them?” he said. “Any solution with Iran should come from the region. The GCC states should have a role.”

The conference was attended by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Manouchehr Mottaki, her Iranian counterpart.

‘Viable Palestine state’

Meanwhile, the GCC said it will back the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate with Israel in the absence of a settlement freeze.

In a statement at the end of its summit, the GCC also emphasised that any settlement freeze should include Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The oil-rich region’s leaders underlined both their support for “the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state” and “opposition to a partial settlement or in stages” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They “denounced the Israeli project for making occupied Al-Quds (Jerusalem) the capital of the Jewish people” and urged the international community to “compel Israel to end its practices aimed at ‘Judaising’ east Jerusalem”.

Newly-relaunched direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled at the end of September after the expiry of a temporary Israeli ban on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.

The Palestinians say they cannot negotiate while Jewish settlers build on land they want for a future state. Israel is still reluctant to consider a new freeze.

Source : News Agencies

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