GCC, UK set to deepen partnership, cooperation

MANAMA, 7th December 2016 (WAM) - The Gulf Cooperation Council member states and the United Kingdom have agreed to launch the GCC-UK Strategic Partnership to foster closer relations in all fields, including political, defence, security, and trade.

This was announced today, following the first GCC-UK Summit in Manama, which was presided over by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain and attended by the GCC leaders and Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, attended the summit.

According to Bahrain News Agency, the following joint communique was released after the summit: The Right Honourable Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Their Majesty and Highness Heads of State of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states met on 6-7 December 2016 in the Kingdom of Bahrain to reaffirm and deepen the strong partnership and cooperation between the GCC and the UK. The leaders agreed to launch the GCC-UK Strategic Partnership to foster closer relations in all fields, including political, defence, security, and trade, as well as enhancing people-to-people contact, and developing collective approaches to regional issues to advance their shared interest in stability and prosperity.

The GCC and UK have a strong history in using all means at their disposal to secure their core interests in the Gulf region, including to tackle regional threats and threats to their security. The GCC and UK partners share a deep interest in supporting the political independence and territorial integrity of GCC member states. The UK remains committed to working with GCC states to deter external aggression and interference in their internal affairs contrary to international law and the UN Charter, just as it did during the Gulf War and on other occasions. The GCC and UK expressed unequivocal commitment to secure, through the new GCC-UK Strategic Partnership, their shared security interests in the Gulf region, including to deter and respond to external aggression. They committed to strengthening engagement on security assistance, cooperation and training.

Regional Stability The GCC and UK partners share a vision for a peaceful and prosperous region, and for addressing the most pressing regional conflicts (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, as well as the Middle East Peace Process), defeating violent extremists including Daesh, and countering Iran’s destabilising activities. On regional conflicts, the leaders decided on a set of common principles, including a shared recognition that there is no military solution to the region’s armed civil conflicts. These can only be resolved through political and peaceful means, respect for all states’ sovereignty and non-interference in their internal affairs contrary to international law, the need for inclusive governance in conflict-ridden societies, as well as protection of all minorities and of human rights.

The leaders committed to continue working towards a sustainable political resolution in Syria that ends the war and establishes an inclusive government that protects all ethnic and religious communities, and preserves state institutions. The leaders reaffirmed that Assad has lost all legitimacy and has no role in Syria’s future. The international community needs to be united in calling for the Assad regime and its backers, including Russia and Iran, to support a meaningful end to the violence, sustained humanitarian access and an inclusive political process. The solution to the situation in Syria is an enduring political settlement based on transition away from the Assad regime to a government representative of all Syrians; and with which we work to fight terrorism. They agreed to increase regional pressure on the Assad regime and its backers by heightening financial disruption and economic constraints. They reaffirmed strong support for the Syrian opposition, brought together by the High Negotiations Committee, and their vision for political transition in Syria. At the same time, they agreed to: (1) encourage the moderate Syrian opposition to work hard to promote its vision to the Syrian people and international community; (2) ensure the Syrian opposition remain committed to a negotiated political solution; and (3) emphasise that armed groups must comply with International Humanitarian Law and minimise civilian casualties. They strongly supported increased efforts to degrade and defeat Daesh in Syria, and warned against the influence of other extremist groups, such as Al-Nusrah, Hezbollah and other sectarian organisations and Al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups, that represent a danger to the Syrian people, to the region and to the international community. They expressed deep concern over the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and condemned the prevention of aid distribution to the civilian population by the Assad regime or any other party.

The GCC member states and the UK further affirmed their commitment to assisting the Iraqi Government and the International Global Coalition in their fight against Daesh, including post-liberation stabilisation efforts. As Daesh grapples with its failure and loss of territory, it will attempt to recalibrate its definition of success. In order to defeat Daesh, The GCC member states and the UK recognise the need to continue to scale-up Coalition efforts to marginalise their brand and encourage alternative narratives, supporting the work of the Counter Daesh Coalition Communications Cell. To be successful, they acknowledge it will require the engagement of all Coalition countries to create opportunities and build resilience in vulnerable communities. The GCC and the UK also agreed to support effort to de-mine areas cleared of Daesh.

They stressed the importance of strengthening ties between Iraq and its neighbours, based on the principles of good neighbourliness, non-interference in internal affairs contrary to international law, and respect for state sovereignty. They encouraged the Iraqi Government to achieve genuine national reconciliation by urgently addressing the legitimate grievances of all elements of Iraqi society through the implementation of reforms, including those previously agreed, and by ensuring that all armed groups operate under the strict control of the Iraqi state. They welcomed the initiative of the Iraqi, UK and Belgian Governments for a UN-led, global campaign to bring Daesh to justice.

With regard to Yemen, both the GCC member states and the UK emphasised the need to resolve the conflict peacefully through political dialogue and negotiations facilitated by the UN based on the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and other relevant UNSC Resolutions. They pledged continued support for the UN Special Envoy and the UN-led peace process, and endorsed the roadmap presented by the UN Special Envoy to the Yemeni parties, which sets out clearly the path to a comprehensive agreement including sequencing of security and political steps that must be taken. They urged the Yemeni parties to engage with the UN in good faith and to adhere to the UN-proposed Cessation of Hostilities under the same terms and conditions entered into on 10 April 2016.

They rejected the unilateral actions by the parties in Sana'a around the formulation of a political counsel and a government, which undermine the UN facilitated peace efforts. Given the dire humanitarian and economic situation, the GCC member states and UK stressed the utmost importance of the parties to the conflict ensuring the security and safety of humanitarian workers, to take all feasible steps to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to allow for unhindered commercial and humanitarian access, and to commit significant funding to the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen for 2017. The GCC member states and the UK look forward to working together on Yemen’s reconstruction – including rehabilitating the economy, sea ports, and public services – once the peace process is concluded. They supported humanitarian assistance being delivered to all parts of Yemen by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, other GCC states and UK aid organisations (including Department for International Development) and committed to scale-up those efforts.

They reaffirmed their commitment, in partnership with other members of the international community, to seek to prevent the resupply of weapons to Houthi forces and their allies in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 including anti-shipping and ballistic missiles which have the potential to inflict massive civilian casualties. Finally, the UK and GCC member states also underscored the imperative of collective efforts to counter Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The leaders decided to move in concert to convince all Libyan parties to accept an inclusive power-sharing agreement under the framework of the UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement according to UNSC resolutions 2259, 2278 and the Skheirat Accord, and to continue to focus on countering the terrorist presence in the country.

The GCC member states and the UK strongly affirmed the necessity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a just, lasting, comprehensive peace agreement that results in an independent and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, based on the Arab Peace Initiative and UN resolutions. They urged the parties to demonstrate through policies and actions genuine advancement of a two-state solution.

On Lebanon, the leaders welcomed the election of a new president, called on all parties to strengthen Lebanese state institutions, and emphasised the need to fight all terrorist groups operating in Lebanese territory, which threaten Lebanon’s security and stability.On Egypt, the GCC and the UK committed to support cooperation between the IMF and Egypt.

The GCC member states and the UK determined to accelerate efforts against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the means of their delivery, as well as advanced conventional weapons, by enhancing national controls on proliferation-sensitive items and technologies.

On humanitarian cooperation, the leaders recognised the substantial and continued efforts and means of cooperation in this area, and pledged to continue working closely to relieve the situation in Yemen and Syria.

The leaders pledged to deepen further GCC-UK relations on these and other issues in order to build an even stronger, enduring and comprehensive strategic partnership aimed at enhancing regional stability and prosperity.

Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Extremism, Including Daesh and al-Qa’ida Recognising that countering terrorism needs a continually adaptive approach, the GCC member states and the UK pledged to build on their shared commitment to address the acute threats posed by Al-Qa’ida, Daesh and their affiliates. The GCC and the UK will hold a Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Border Security to follow up on previous efforts to cooperate on border security, countering the financing of terrorism, cyber-security, and critical infrastructure protection.

The GCC member states and the UK will work together through the National Security Dialogue and the Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Border Security to coordinate their efforts to enhance capacity to track, investigate, and prosecute those engaged in terrorist activities, in line with national and international law, as well as to contain and deter transit, financing and recruitment by violent extremists. They pledge to ensure regional efforts in counter-terrorism work complements individual national strategies (such as CONTEST, the UK’s Counter Terrorism strategy).

Leaders also decided to strengthen counter-terrorist work on financing, through the GCC member states and UK increasing efforts to cut off terrorist financing, including through enhanced intelligence exchange and enforcement efforts to freeze assets of individuals and entities designated under relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, especially in the region. The GCC member states and the UK also determined to bolster their joint efforts to identify and share information on suspected foreign terrorist fighters (FTF). In response to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014), the GCC member states and UK and will work together to implement traveller screening systems and enhanced biometrics collection capability, and share best practices to make it more difficult for terrorists to avoid detection at any of their airports.

The GCC member states and the UK committed to supporting the implementation of the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, in line with UN General Assembly resolution 70/291 of 1 July 2016. As encouraged in that Resolution, the GCC member state and the UK will collaborate in supporting UN member states, regional and sub-regional organisations to develop national and regional plans of action to prevent violent extremism.

They will help develop effective responses to violent extremism and ideology, and provide resilience in vulnerable communities by reinforcing efforts by the United Nations and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum and its operational arms – the Hedayah Center (the Abu-Dhabi-based International Center for Countering Violent Extremism), the Global Communities Engagement and Resilience Fund – and other relevant institutions, such as the Mohammed Bin Naif Counseling and Care Center, by exchanging best practices and by providing technical and financial support to the expansion of these institutions and related initiatives. They committed to reinforcing the efforts initiated by the UAE and UK in launching a Task Force on national action plans to prevent and counter violent extremism.

Iran and Regional Stability The GCC member states and the UK and oppose and will work together to counter Iran’s destabilising activities in the region. They stressed the need for Iran to engage the region according to the principles of good neighbourliness, strict non-interference in domestic affairs, and respect for territorial integrity, consistent with international law and the United Nations Charter, and for Iran to take concrete, practical steps to build trust and resolve its differences with its neighbours by peaceful means.

Countering External and Internal Threats Building on their historical and strong bilateral ties and their newly founded Strategic Partnership, the GCC and UK leaders decided to enhance joint efforts to improve defence cooperation, as well as on maritime security and cyber-security. The leaders decided to seek collaborative training and exercise opportunities that would develop GCC defence capacity, capability and interoperability, including for humanitarian and peace support operations, and combined crisis response planning. The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to work cooperatively on security and political issues of regional importance, and work closely in training, technical assistance and exchange of information. We have a shared interest in maximising the economic and social benefits from the growth in use of a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace, and in ensuring that our national infrastructure and computer networks are resilient against cyber attack.

The GCC member states and the UK will build on existing bilateral relations and expand towards increased military cooperation to tackle current threats and fortify defences in the region, through joint exercises and including maritime and border security. This includes a UK presence throughout the Gulf, including coordination through the Regional British Defence Staff to be based in Dubai.

The GCC member states and the UK will also establish a National Security Dialogue, to build GCC member states’ capacity to coordinate security issues more effectively, and develop a framework for a regional response to crises. This Dialogue will broaden and integrate security cooperation to include, for example, cyber, serious organised crime, and counter-extremism.

The GCC member states and the UK will increase efforts towards cyber security initiatives, sharing expertise and best practices on cyber security policy, strategy, and incident response, working closely through the UK's newly appointed cyber security advisors, their GCC counterparts and the UK cyber security industry representative for the GCC to build capacity in Gulf institutions. They will also work together to combat the online exploitation of children, including through the We PROTECT Global Alliance.

The GCC member states and the UK committed to enhance engagement on tackling the shared threat of drug trafficking, including through the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), the GCC Criminal Information Centre and GCCPOL.

The UK expressed its readiness to support GCC efforts to diversify their economies, provide more effective governance, and adapt to the new economic challenges, by emphasising innovation, non-oil industries, technical education and training, and services.

Humanitarian and Development Assistance The GCC and the UK agreed to work together to coordinate their humanitarian and development assistance activities, especially in the region. The GCC member states and the UK supported a follow-up conference to previous donor conferences on Syria ( including the London conference co-hosted by the UK, Kuwait, Norway and Germany, and other previous conferences hosted by Kuwait). They agreed to deliver fully on the 2016 Syria Conference pledges by the end of this year. They pledged increased support to tackle the regional refugee crisis, including the refugee education crisis in Lebanon. Additionally, they announced a new humanitarian and development cooperation Partnership Agreement with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre.

Refugees, Migration and Human Trafficking Building on their strong track record of supporting refugees and fighting human trafficking, the GCC member states and the UK pledged to work together to enhance their efforts to support refugees and fight human trafficking through supporting victims and pursuing perpetrators. GCC member states agreed to support the UK’s global ambition to end modern slavery (through the commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal 8.7) and ensure compliance with international conventions on forced labour. They will discuss initiatives to facilitate cooperation with flight carriers to combat human trafficking and to identify both traffickers and victims.

Trade and Investment The GCC and UK will build on their long-standing co-operation to unlock the full potential of their trade and investment relationship. This will occur both bilaterally and with the region as a whole, including to maintain the UK position as the largest foreign investor in the region. Bilateral trade between the UK and GCC was worth over ?30 billion last year and at this summit there were announcements covering a number of key sectors, including Healthcare, Innovation and the Knowledge Economy, Education, Finance, Defence and Security.

We will make it a priority, when the UK leaves the European Union, to build the closest possible commercial and economic relationship, and even more closely with business to promote actively GCC-UK economic engagement beyond current levels. We will work to understand and remove barriers to trade and investment, and to create the conditions under which trade and investment can flourish, empowering and enhancing the lives of our citizens.

Leaders agreed that we need to use government and business dialogues in a focussed and coherent manner in order, firstly, to build deeper knowledge and understanding of the key trade and investment issues, before moving towards discussions about the resolution of barriers.

To this end, a newly-established Joint Working Group will discuss the detail of our trading relationship, and help drive progress.

Leaders also decided to hold a GCC-UK PPP Conference in London in the first quarter of 2017, focusing on GCC national transformation and economic diversification plans.

People To People The GCC and UK agreed to build upon their already strong foundation of people to people contact through further enhancement. They agreed to close collaboration and partnership in education, healthcare, culture, sport and the arts, including through the British Council, and working with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) on marine environmental issues. They agreed on the importance of efforts to support inter-faith and inter-civilisation dialogue, including through King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna.

Strong and Long-Lasting Partnership GCC member states and the UK agreed to meet annually in a similar high-level format, in order to advance and build upon the UK-GCC Strategic Partnership announced today. They endorsed the GCC-UK Joint Action Plan as agreed by their Foreign Ministers and called for its full implementation. Leaders have also instructed their Ministers to review and extend the timeframe and scope of the current GCC-UK Joint Action Plan (JAP) (2015-2018) in light of the commitments made at this summit.

They agreed to hold regular joint ministerial meetings in all areas of GCC-UK Strategic Partnership, and instructed their experts and senior officials to meet regularly to map out the details and monitor implementation.


WAM/bashir