There is an urgent need to formulate a clear vision to define the mechanism of Yemen’s full admission to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said participants attending a workshop organized by the Gulf Research Center (GRC) in Dubai on November 9.
The debate entitled “Inclusion of Yemen to the GCC,” pointed out that Yemen-GCC relations are cordial, and there are no political, cultural or social obstacles impeding Yemen’s entry into the six-member bloc. In fact, the debate noted that there are common denominators that provide an impetus to Yemen’s inclusion.
The GRC debate, organized in collaboration with the Yemeni Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, affirmed that including Yemen as part of the GCC is crucial in establishing a firm base for Gulf security and warned that excluding it would be a grave strategic mistake, especially after Iraq lost its strategic standing.
It was emphasized that economic turnaround, especially improving the standard of living of the people, should be the first step in the program to help Yemen qualify as a GCC member. One of the ideas suggested to make this a reality was accommodating more Yemenis in the GCC workforce, which is dominated by expatriates.
The debate was attended by delegates representing various GCC countries, besides a large Yemeni delegation headed by Dr. Abdul Karim Al-Iryani, political affairs advisor to the president of Yemen, and Abdul Karim Al-Arhabi Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.
“The main objective of the symposium is to manifest the importance of historic and cultural relations between Yemen and GCC countries and discuss strategic, security and political issues and developments associated with Yemen’s GCC membership to the bloc in the future,” said the GRC Chairman, Abdulaziz Sager, in his opening remarks.
Sager also said that settling border disputes between Yemen and its neighboring GCC countries represent an important base for enhancing relations between the two sides, as well as the need for developing Yemen’s capability to face internal crises.
The GRC chairman called on the GCC countries and global donor institutions to shoulder their responsibilities in planning and implementing efficient programs to help Yemen, including modernizing institutions, developing policies, and building a capable bureaucracy.
In his comments, the Yemeni Minister of Planning and International Cooperation stressed that Yemen represents the southern gate of the GCC countries vis-à-vis Africa and there are common benefits to reap, including the expansion of the market size.
Some of the initial steps toward integration have been good and in sync with the decisions of the GCC Summits, according to Arhabi. The 2001 summit in Muscat endorsed the idea of Yemen joining several of the GCC organizations. At the Abu Dhabi summit in December 2005, the strategic resolution of starting the process of Yemen’s integration to the bloc by 2015 was passed. The decision to support development and infrastructure projects in Yemen was also taken.
According to Dr Iryani, advisor to Yemeni president, “We have to think of a future without grievances…There are political differences between Yemen and the GCC countries, but we should not let them hinder dialogue…If Eastern European countries joined the European Union, why should our political differences be an obstacle…”
In the second session, Dr Mustafa Alani, senior advisor and director of the security and terrorism program at the GRC, called for including Yemen in the Gulf security architecture to contain the emerging crises. “There should be more exchange of information, more efforts to combat religious extremism. Though the possession of arms by Yemenis does not represent an external threat for the GCC countries, their availability in big numbers among civilians is very harmful, and the government must address this,” he urged.
Dr Alani called for a two-dimensional cooperation: horizontally with the GCC countries, and vertically with Arab countries and the rest of the world. In his view, Washington will play a major role in the process of Yemen’s inclusion.
Arhabi concluded that security concerns cannot be addressed in isolation from the economic problems. He, however, agreed that before joining the GCC, Yemen must address two issues: first, control possession of arms by civilians; and second, evolve a way to deal with the social menace of chewing Qat.