Analysts say GCC inclusion of Jordan, Morocco will strengthen Arab integration
May 14, 2011
BBC Monitoring Middle East
["Today's Harvest" news programme on GCC's invitation to Morocco to join the GCC, and Jordan's request to join the GCC; Saudi Consultative Council member, Jordanian government spokesman, and Moroccan Socialist Unified Party member interviewed - live.]
Doha Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel Television in Arabic at 2001 GMT on 10 May carries within its "Today's Harvest" news programme a 200-second report on the GCC consultative summit held in Riyadh on 10 May, an approximately six-minute interview with Zuhayr al-Harithi, member of the Saudi Arabia's Consultative (Shura) Council, in the Doha studio; followed by a four-minute interview with Tahir al-Adwan, Jordan's minister of state for media affairs and communication and official spokesman of the Jordanian government, via telephone from Amman; and a four-minute interview with Hassan Tarik, member of the Political Bureau of Morocco's Socialist Unified Party, SUP, via telephone from Rabat. The interviews are conducted from Doha by anchors Khadijah Bin-Qinnah and Muhammad al-Kurayshan.
Al-Jazeera reports on the consultative summit held by the heads of the six Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states - or their representatives - in Riyadh on 10 May during which they discussed the situation in Yemen and Bahrain and the tense relations with Iran.
Al-Jazeera reports that GCC Secretary General Abd-al-Latif al-Zayani said the GCC Supreme Council delegated its foreign ministers to initiate talks with Rabat on Morocco joining the GCC, while the GCC leaders "welcomed Jordan's request to join the GCC, and promised to study the request."
Al-Jazeera then carries a video report by an unidentified correspondent on the summit. Video shows scenes from the summit, beginning with the Saudi monarch walking with the help of a stick, surrounded by Saudi and other GCC dignitaries. The correspondent notes that the summit coincides with "a big deterioration in the GCC states' relations with Iran, in the wake of recent protests in Bahrain," adding that Iran was unhappy with Bahrain's request for the assistance of the Peninsula Shield Force to end the disturbances.
The correspondent adds that the GCC states are becoming increasingly worried by the continuing crisis in Yemen where huge demonstrations are held daily to demand President Salih's departure. Al-Jazeera's correspondent adds that the GCC summit sent a delegation to meet with Syrian President Al-Asad, and the director of the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai has revealed that the GCC will not mediate in the Syrian situation, but it may have proffered advice to Al-Asad and stressed to him that the "security solution is not the only solution, and reforms are essential."
Bin-Qinnah then asks Al-Harithi about the GCC's "surprise move" in welcoming Jordan's request to join the GCC and inviting Morocco to join, Al-Harithi says "the picture is not quite clear yet." He explains that the move stems from "the GCC's desire to establish a bloc that represents a political stand, and an economic bloc that gives momentum to the GCC. The political systems in all those countries are similar: they are monarchies, and their political stands are also similar." Asked if he is referring to stands towards Iran, Al-Harithi says Iran and other issues. He says it is a "good move, because we are talking about the globalization age, which requires the creation of blocs that achieve economic integration."
Asked whether his assertion about the political systems of the GCC, Jordan, and Morocco being similar explains why the GCC had rejected past requests to join the GCC, Al-Harithi disagrees and says Yemen has begun preparations to qualify, adding: "I think it will join soon."
Al-Harithi says the GCC states are facing regional and domestic challenges, and they have certain demands, and the GCC states are wise to take such a far-sighted stand that could be helpful in the future. He says some states "are trying to exploit the present weakness of the Arab states, for we have seen some interference and some changes in the Arab political map."
Al-Harithi says he believes that since four months ago "the GCC embarked on a new stage" with regard to joint action and security and defence policies. He says the GCC's achievements continue to fall short of the aspirations of the peoples of the GCC states, and the GCC has sensed the dangers of the present stage and wisely looked for ways out.
Told it is called a Gulf council, while Morocco is a long distance from the Gulf, Al-Harithi says if Morocco and Jordan join the GCC geographic location will no longer be so important, for the states' joint action, political stand, and economic integration will be more important. He says if the outcome of those two states joining the GCC is that Arab joint action will gain momentum that ultimately serves the Arab states.
Asked about Yemen's application to join the GCC, Al-Harithi says: "The problem is in the Yemeni court, where there is some stalling and procrastination on the part of the regime, while the opposition is being intransigent and is taking a hard-line operation." He urges the Yemenis to seize this opportunity for it is "a road map to find a solution.
Al-Harithi says the GCC initiative because it will spare the Yemeni people's blood, achieve their demands, and lead to respect for the options of the Yemeni people. He adds: "The GCC states are neither backing the Yemeni president, nor siding with the Yemeni opposition, but seek to consolidate Yemen's stability and security." Al-Harithi adds: Yemen's security is a strategic matter. It is linked to the security system of the GCC as a whole."
Al-Kurayshan then interviews Jordan's Tahir al-Adwan. Al-Kurayshan begins by asking him how Jordan received the decisions of the GCC consultative summit. Al-Adwan says: "The Jordanian government issued a statement lauding the GCC summit's statement that welcomed Jordan's request to join the GCC. It is a big and important step for joint Arab action, and achieves the interests of the Arab peoples in this region. Amy step towards strengthening Jordanian-GCC relations is welcomed in Jordan, not only at the official level but at various popular levels as well." He notes Jordan's strong and longstanding relations with the GCC states where, he says, many Jordanians are employed.
Asked what does Jordan hope to achieve by joining the GCC, Al-Adwan says: "Such a step serves the interests of Jordan and also serves joint Arab action. It strengthens Arab integration and cooperation in economic fields, and bolsters the ties and contacts between the peoples of the region."
Seeking a more specific answer, Al-Kurayshan says why does Jordan apply to join the GCC which had so far been a club exclusively for Gulf states, Al-Adwan says: "It has been a longstanding ambition of Jordan to join the GCC. You may recall that in recent weeks when the king went on a tour, and the prime minister also went on a tour of the Gulf states, there were reports on the possibility of Jordan joining the GCC. The report was well received by Jordanian public opinion. I believe Jordan has constantly aspired to join the GCC, which is a very big step for Jordan. It is a welcome move. Certainly, Jordanians will feel that new horizons have been opened to cooperation between Jordan and the peoples and states of the GCC. It is in Jordan's interest. As you know, Jordan faces difficult economic circumstances. The entire region is suffering from unrest and instability."
Al-Adwan adds: "Now any step towards bolstering joint Arab action on various levels represents a ray of hope for the peoples of the region."
Bin-Qinnah then interviews Hasan Tarik, of Morocco's SUP. Asked how did Morocco receive the GCC's invitation to join the GCC, Tarik says Moroccan public opinion was surprised by the invitation, both because Morocco is more oriented towards the Arab Maghreb and the West, and because the GCC is a closed club. Tariq notes that not all the facts are known, and the reports are conflicting, for there are those who say Morocco has officially applied to join the GCC, while there are those who say that Mo rocco was invited by the GCC to join it. He adds that there had been no previous public discussions on the issue. He says there will be questions regarding the effect of such a move on Morocco's relations with other Maghreb and Mediterranean states. [Video shows King Hamad of Bahrain sitting and listening to other GCC leaders]
Asked how would Morocco's relations with other Arab Maghreb states conflict with its relations with GCC states, Tarik says the political stands of Morocco and the GCC states have always been close, and there was clear economic support for Morocco. He adds: "However, for those relations to go as far as Morocco joining the GCC represents a shift in Morocco's foreign policy. The fear is that, in the light of the political transformations that have been occurring in the Arab region, the bid to join the GCC will be construed as a return to the policy of axes. There is also a fear that it will be viewed as the last nail in the coffin of the Arab Regional Order. There are numerous questions that are being asked by Moroccan public opinion, but there are not enough appropriate answers to those questions."
Tarik says decisions on foreign policy are the prerogative of the state and the royal establishment, and adds: "However, it is hoped there will be a public debate on the issue and the options. Are we getting involved in a pragmatic and economic process? Does it have political significance and consequences? What is the cost? Why now? Those are all matters that require clarification?"
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 2001 gmt May 10, 2011