Gulf states vow joint stand on security

The six Gulf Arab states up a $20 billion development fund for Bahrain, Oman.

Last Updated: Mar 11, 2011, 15:36 PM IST

Riyadh: The six Gulf Arab states vowed on Thursday to deal "decisively" with threats to any member`s security and set up a USD 20 billion development fund for Bahrain and Oman which were hit with protests.

"The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) believes that any threat to the security of any member state harms the security of all states and will be dealt with decisively and immediately, without hesitation," they said in a statement read out at the end of a meeting in Riyadh.

"The GCC states and peoples totally reject any attempts for foreign interference in its affairs and declare they will firmly curb those trying to foment sectarian rift," said the statement issued after the foreign ministers` one-day meeting.

The declaration comes as echoes of protests raging across the Arab world reach the Gulf monarchies, prompting demonstrations calling for social, economic and political reforms in Bahrain, Oman and OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia. In Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, seven protesters have been killed since anti-government demonstrations erupted almost a month ago, raising tensions between the Shi`ite majority and the ruling Sunni minority.

Sultan Qaboos of Oman on Monday announced a major cabinet reshuffle in response to protesters` grievances about alleged corruption and the slow pace of democratic reform.

Meanwhile, the conservative Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where several hundred Shi’ites protested last week, is facing mounting pressures to ease its ban on demonstrations, as Facebook activists called for a "Day of Rage" on Friday.

The GCC states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- also announced on Thursday they will create a USD 20-billion development fund to aid Bahrain and Oman.

The six Gulf states decided "to establish a USD 20 billion fund to finance development projects in GCC states," with half each going to Bahrain and Oman, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said.

He said the duration of the fund is for 10 years.

A committee of representatives from the six GCC members has been formed to "work out the necessary mechanisms to set to establish the fund," and the committee will begin its meetings within the next two weeks.

Unlike the remaining four GCC countries which are rich in oil and gas and have around USD 1.35 trillion in assets, Bahrain and Oman have little oil and are the poorest of the GCC states.

However, Sheikh Abdullah did not say how the fund assets will be collected from the GCC states, adding that a team of GCC experts will meet shortly to determine the development projects to be financed by the fund.

Bureau Report