How can Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC improve their collaboration in regards to security and defense?
For some time now, the GCC has realized, because of the complexity and multitude of threats it faces, that its security depends totally on working together and coordinating the activities of its military, police, and all other services and agencies involved in security. Work began some years ago to enhance the alliance's joint capabilities in key areas on land, sea, and in the air to ensure that interoperability of doctrine, weapon systems, training, and communications, for example, were harmonized. In addition, the GCC Supreme Council, particularly during the 2013 and 2014 meetings, made certain decisions that will have a long-term impact on bringing our nations even closer in a security sense. The major decisions made were to establish: a GCC Unified Command Headquarters to enhance military interoperability and information sharing; a GCCPOL (similar to Europol) to improve policing in the fight against serious trans-border organized crime and extremism; a GCC Emergency Management Centre to identify and prepare the GCC against all major and potentially destabilizing risks; and, finally, and importantly, an agreement was reached to create a GCC Academy for Strategic and Defence Studies to consider resilience against all threats. These institutions will not only act as focal points for improving coordination, cooperation, communication, and trust between members, but will also enhance external links by connecting into other regional and global establishments. In all these areas, Saudi Arabia has played a full and leading role. It is also worth mentioning that the Kingdom has established a permanent International Centre for Dialogue in Vienna, with the aim of fostering understanding between different religions and cultures. In addition, it has offered funding and asked that consideration be given to establishing a Global Centre to coordinate activities to counter terrorism and extremism in all its forms. In summary, the nations of the GCC are doing a great deal to improve security collaboration.
Greater integration within the GCC or the formation of a GCC union has been discussed. How do you see such actions affecting Saudi Arabia and the GCC overall?
Any alliance relies on unity of vision, unity of purpose, unity of thought, and unity of effort. We in the GCC recognize the importance of working together, and I am glad to say that we have these psychological attributes of unity in plenty. As a result, we are integrating and getting closer to each other in many ways. Some examples of areas where members are collaborating more include: encouraging free markets and internal investment; providing for easier cross-flow of labor; ensuring that our intra GCC customs regulations are eased; and considering a common currency, amongst others.
What are the GCC's short-term priorities and goals for 2015-16, and what role must Saudi Arabia play to achieve them?
It is not for me to detail the Kingdom's activities, but it may help to consider the GCC's short-term goals within the context of security, social, and economic requirements. In terms of security, we all agreed that our principal goal is to assist and participate fully in the international efforts to defeat ISIS. Following on from this, we wish to do our best to end the spread of extremism, especially that which emanates from within our own boundaries. In doing this, we will do much to enhance our own security. Also, we will continue to pursue harmony and understanding with our regional neighbors, and, in particular, through diplomatic efforts do all we can to firstly stabilize and then improve the situation in Yemen within the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution 2216. Finally, we are determined to proceed speedily with the joint and institutional initiatives outlined, because by doing so we know that our overall interoperability and, therefore, resilience will be greatly enhanced. In regard to our social requirements, the single most important aim of all our member states is to overcome the challenges of radicalization, education, employment, and other challenges facing the youth of our nations. Success here will not only do much to secure our present stability and social fulfillment, but most importantly we will also ensure durable and resilient foundations are in place to meet the extraordinarily demanding future ahead of us. With this in mind, youth is at the top of the GCC Supreme Council's agenda and special funding and numerous initiatives are in place. Economically, all our members have their own plans, but as a bloc the priority is given to pursuing joint projects.