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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 January 2019

Arab and African states discuss forming a Red Sea security council

Arab states seek cooperation with African countries to protect maritime trade

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, smile at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. AP Photo / Natacha Pisarenko
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, smile at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. AP Photo / Natacha Pisarenko

The formation of a new political council aimed at securing the Red Sea was discussed on Wednesday in Riyadh at a gathering of foreign ministers from seven coastal Arab and African nations.

The meeting is the first to gather the seven countries — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt and Yemen — in a bid to improve the economic and maritime security of the Red Sea coasts.

A bloc between the seven nations will be established to manage the affairs of the Red Sea and its choke points, which see approximately 10 per cent of world trade.

nw1312 council
nw1312 council

"The safety and security of the Red Sea will open the opportunity for increased cooperation with the entire world," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said according to his ministry's Twitter account.

The group were received by the Saudi King Salman after their meeting with Mr Al Jubeir.

“During the meeting, they discussed the prospects for cooperation among the concerned countries and the role of establishing the group in enhancing security, stability, trade and investment in the region,” according to a statement by Saudi state news agency.

Meanwhile, on Monday, a statement by the GCC countries said cooperation between the collective of six Arab states and several African countries was set to increase.

The communique, published after the one-day GCC summit in Riyadh, focuses in part on how to strengthen the Gulf states' alliance with countries like Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali among others.

But this is not the first time GCC countries have taken an interest in the African continent.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE helped broker a deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia in September ending a decades-long dispute.

The strategic importance of the Horn of Africa countries, which jointly control the Bab el Mandeb strait along with Yemen, has led some GCC countries to increase their support for those governments.

The Bab el Mandeb is a key shipping route for GCC oil exports westward-bound.

African food imports into the UAE have risen 170 per cent since 2010.

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The Supreme Council of GCC countries, the formal title given to the gathering of representatives at the annual summit, said they would be providing support to the G5 sub-Sahara countries — comprised of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Including “military, logistic and development aid” to help the sub-Sahara countries’ fight against terrorism.

The Sudanese government has taken part in the Arab coalition’s intervention in Yemen, providing four military planes and ground forces.

Djibouti, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan and Comoros are among the members of the Arab League.

Over the summer, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) pledged Dh11 billion in assistance to Ethiopia during a visit on by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

As the fastest growing economy in Africa, the Gulf states view Ethiopia as a potential source of stability in East Africa. Furthermore, there have been more agreements to allow Ethiopians to work in GCC economies.

Updated: December 12, 2018 06:23 PM

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