Gulf Arab States Seal Joint Defense Pact at GCC Summit
Gulf Arab leaders on Sunday signed a joint defense pact that binds member states to defend one another if threatened from outside the region, Bahrain's GNA news agency reported.
The pact "commits the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to defend any member state victim of an external threat or danger," GNA said.
A Gulf official told AFP the pact was "a great step on the road to the establishment of a common defense" between the six monarchies.
The pact was to have been signed in November 1999, but defense ministers of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, then meeting in Dubai, broke up without putting their names to any agreement.
Bahrain's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa opened the 21st GCC summit Friday with a call for the "development of cooperation in defense issues, which is a guarantee for the security and stability of GCC countries and their peoples."
The GCC has approved a 70 million-dollar telecommunications project to link the military headquarters of all six countries but has yet to implement the plan, and is also examining a radar network project worth 88 million dollars.
The countries already have a joint defense force called Peninsula Shield. Chiefs of staff last month considered raising the size from 5,000 to 22,000 troops.
The force, created in 1986, has its headquarters in Hafar Al-Baten, in northeastern Saudi Arabia, but it did not intervene when Iraq overran Kuwait in a few hours in 1990.
The oil-rich Gulf monarchies have signed defense pacts with Western powers and have granted US and British forces military facilities to enforce the embargo and no-fly zone imposed on Iraq -- MANAMA (AFP)
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