Wed - 29 Jul 2020 - 01:18 AM

written by : Dya-Eddine Bamakhrama Writer Archive -

Djibouti recently completed the necessary measures to ratify the founding charter of the Council of Arab and African Coastal States of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden that was signed in Riyadh on January 6, 2020. The signatories included the foreign ministers of Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Jordan and Eritrea.

Saudi Arabia came up with the idea of forming such a council. The signing of the Jeddah pact on April 21, 1956 between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen paved the way for the establishment of a “joint security system” in the Red Sea. In 1977, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and North Yemen called for Arab military cooperation as part of a tripartite alliance that will transform the Red Sea region into a “region of peace.”

For its part, Djibouti played an important role in protecting international security in the Red Sea, given its position overlooking the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait. This location has made it a central country in efforts exerted in preserving international security and stability through coordination and cooperation with major powers in protecting marine navigation, combating terrorism and confronting the security challenges facing the region and entire world. The international military bases that were recently set up in Djibouti are primarily aimed at combating terrorism and protecting international marine navigation in this strategic part of the world.

As for the idea of the council, Saudi Arabia, with its far-sighted approach, took the initiative to establish an entity that would bring together the Arab and African countries that border the Red Sea. Such a council would be aimed at bolstering the security and stability in the region. The concerned countries welcomed the call by attending the first meeting for their foreign ministers that took place in Riyadh on December 12, 2018. They reached an agreement to establish a body that includes all Arab and African countries that overlook the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. It would be aimed at coordination and cooperation among them and establishing means to achieve that in political, economic, security and environment fields.

Djibouti had early on proposed that the council set up its headquarters in Riyadh and that it be headed by the Saudi leadership for the following reasons:

- Saudi Arabia had come up with the idea to form such a council back in 1956.

- The Kingdom boasts strong and solid relations with all Arab and African countries that overlook the Red Sea. It is universally accepted by all countries.

- Saudi Arabia has massive means to lead extensive diplomacy among the concerned countries. It also boasts a rich diplomatic history and balanced foreign policy that allows it to play a pioneering influential role to attract other countries.

- Saudi Arabia has the longest coast that overlooks the Red Sea and it therefore, is the most vulnerable to any instability to any developments that may take place in area.

The above demonstrates that establishing an entity that would be bring together the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden countries was a priority for the concerned countries, especially Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. They realize the strategic political, economic, security and environmental significance of this marine region. This also reflects the harmony and alignment of visions and expectations by the leaderships of the brotherly countries: Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh and his brother, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh himself keenly oversaw the developments related to the establishment of the important regional council out of his belief of its positive impact on region’s economic, development and political scenes.

I must highlight the personal efforts exerted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in forming the council through his direct contacts with the leaderships of the concerned countries. These efforts were crowned with the signing of the founding charter of the council in January. The member states have sensed the importance of coordination and consultations over the vital waterway, which is significant for the global economy, trade and investment, and seeing as the Red Sea is a main global trade route that connects east Asia to Europe.

I have, on more than one occasion, stressed that the leaderships and peoples of those countries have pinned high hopes on the formation of the council and what it can achieve in terms of stability, development and fruitful economic and political cooperation. There is no doubt that the economic and security harmony between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden countries will reflect positively on the people of this region and stand against any regional or international tensions that may impact this solidarity. In other works, the council will only bolster the significance of this vital waterway.

*Dya-Eddine Said Bamakhrama is Djibouti’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Published by the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Tuesday, 28 July, 2020. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.