RIYADH, 21st April, 2016 (WAM) — xxxx. Challenges .Leaders were briefed on the April 20 meeting of U.S. and GCC defence ministers. Validating the importance of GCC-U.S. training exercises, they announced that GCC countries and the US would immediately begin planning for a combined military exercise in March 2017, to demonstrate the full breath of GCC-U.S. security capabilities.

GCC countries endorsed quick implementation of a new initiative to train specially-designated Special Operations Forces (SOF) units from each GCC country, in order to bolster interoperable counterterrorism capabilities. GCC countries also supported expanded cooperation on cyber security, endorsing peacetime cyber norms codified by Saudi Arabia, the US, and other G-20 countries.

The U.S. expressed its readiness to support GCC efforts to diversify their economies, provide more effective governance, and adapt to economic challenges posed by low oil prices and changing demographics.

Toward that end, GCC countries endorsed a U.S. proposal to inaugurate a ministerial-level GCC-U.S. economic dialogue in 2016, to supplement the activities undertaken under the GCC-U.S. Framework Agreement on Economic, Trade, Investment and Technical Cooperation of 2012.

In addition to strengthening GCC-U.S. economic and investment ties, this dialogue would seek to assist GCC countries’ implementation of economic and energy policies aimed at making available additional resources to meet their development needs. Leaders reaffirmed the mutual benefits of cooperation on climate issues, and committed to work toward the adoption of an amendment to the Montreal Protocol in 2016 to phasedown hydro fluorocarbons.

Leaders committed to continuing coordinating closely on issues of mutual concern, including through meetings of GCC and U.S. secretaries of State and Defence, and support for an annual leader-level summit.

The US welcomed GCC interest in opening an office in Washington to advance cooperation, and will support efforts toward that end. Leaders also directed that all U.S.-GCC working groups meet at least twice annually, to advance partnership on counterterrorism, streamlining the transfer of critical defence capabilities, missile defence, military preparedness, and cyber security.

For continuity of those efforts, and speedy implementation of decisions expressed in the Camp David Joint Statement of May 14, 2015, its annex, and this communique, they directed their respective administrations to strengthen the framework of the GCC-U.S. partnership, including the GCC-U.S. strategic partnership.

Leaders expressed satisfaction with the permanent partnership between GCC and US, stressing the central importance of this partnership as a means to promote peace, security and stability in the region.

WAM/Hazem/Majok