Sunday, October 29, 2023

GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit: Charting a Path for Inter-Regional Cooperation


The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently held their inaugural joint summit in Riyadh, where they adopted a cooperation road map and called for a ceasefire in Gaza. This historic meeting between the two blocs marked a significant step in their relations, which were established in 1986. The GCC consists of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE, while ASEAN comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

With a combined GDP of $7.8 trillion and a population of over 700 million, the GCC and ASEAN are major economic players. Both blocs experienced strong economic growth last year, with the GCC growing at 7.5% and ASEAN at 5.3%, well above the global average. The summit aimed to strengthen relations between the two regions in various domains.

However, the meeting took place amidst the ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza, prompting calls for a ceasefire. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman emphasized the Kingdom’s rejection of targeting civilians and urged an end to the fighting. Indonesian President Joko Widodo also highlighted the need to address the situation in Gaza and called for acts of violence to stop.

The GCC-ASEAN summit produced a cooperation road map and a joint statement on Gaza. The cooperation road map, presented by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Indonesian FM Retno Marsudi, outlined plans to strengthen partnership and explore joint strategies in areas such as counterterrorism, trade and investment, agriculture and food security, energy, tourism, connectivity, culture, information, education, banking, and financial services. The leaders also agreed to focus on micro, small, and medium enterprise development policies.

In their joint statement on Gaza, the GCC-ASEAN leaders condemned attacks against civilians and called for a durable ceasefire. They also emphasized the importance of upholding international humanitarian law and ensuring effective access for humanitarian aid. The summit’s call for a ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid was welcomed as a move to end the bloodshed and protect civilians.

The GCC-ASEAN summit marked a new chapter in the relationship between the two regions. The leaders expressed their commitment to creating a better region and a better world through closer cooperation. They recognized the potential for growth and the benefits it can bring to their people.

Moving forward, the GCC-ASEAN leaders agreed to hold summits every two years to strengthen joint cooperation. This commitment ensures that the relationship between the two blocs will continue to flourish in the future.

In conclusion, the inaugural joint summit between the GCC and ASEAN in Riyadh was a significant milestone in their relations. The adoption of a cooperation road map and the call for a ceasefire in Gaza demonstrated the commitment of both blocs to peace, stability, and prosperity. The summit provided a platform for leaders to discuss key issues and explore opportunities for collaboration in various sectors. With their combined economic power and population, the GCC and ASEAN have the potential to make a positive impact on the global stage.

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