Gulf-Russia Dialogue

  • 19 April 2010

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has always been keen to hold strategic dialogue with the different powers and blocs around the world in order to build a network of interests that benefits its people and gets its views across on issues facing the region and the world. This applies even more to countries and regions that are of great importance to the GCC in the regional and global context and those countries that play an active role in shaping events around the world. In this context, the political dialogue scheduled to be held between the GCC and Russia on Wednesday – with Secretary General, Abdul Rahman Al-Atiyya, leading the GCC delegation – is expected to highlight several regional and international issues related to the security and stability of the region.

Russia is undoubtedly an important country and has a strong influence in the world’s events. It has also had important links with the Middle East and the Gulf region on political, economic, cultural and security levels besides playing a historical balance in the region in general. The GCC’s approach hence has been to develop its relations with Russia in a manner that serves the interests of countries on both the sides and expand this cooperation further. Perhaps what makes GCC’s dialogue with Russia more significant is the desire on Russia’s part to strengthen its relations with the Gulf, Arab and Islamic worlds. This has been evident on many occasions and Russia’s holding the observer status at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) upon its request in 2005 was the most significant indication.

Political dialogue between the GCC and Russia falls within the ambit of strategic partnerships which the council has worked to set up over the past few years in a manner that strengthens its influence in the various fields. The first round of a strategic dialogue between the GCC and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) started in Bahrain in June 2009 while another dialogue with China, which began in Riyadh in 2005, is expected to lead to the signing of a free trade agreement between the two sides. The first round of dialogue with Turkey started in July 2009 in Istanbul. The council has also signed two free trade agreements each with Singapore and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) countries.

Such meaningful partnerships tell the tale of GCC’s political success on the international arena. This would not have been possible without the rising position of its countries in the world on one hand and the strategic awareness of its leadership on the other. Recent years have witnessed a change in the political orientation of the GCC countries towards emerging powers such as China, Russia, South Korea, India and Japan. At a time when the GCC is leveraging its political and economic achievements by developing ties with important powers and blocs in the world, it is serving the interests of legitimate Arab issues, the Palestinian cause being at the top.