Colombo, The Gulf Observer: Malaysia is looking forward to working closely with the Gulf Cooperation Council through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir told Arab News ahead of the ASEAN-GCC summit in Riyadh.
Member states of ASEAN, of which Malaysia is a founding member, have been increasing ties in recent years with GCC members, which consist of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.
Top leaders of the two regional blocs are scheduled to meet in the Saudi capital later this month for their inaugural joint summit.
“We are looking forward to working closely with GCC … at the ASEAN level,” Zambry told Arab News on the sidelines of the Indian Ocean Rim Association meeting in Colombo.
“These are the two regions, GCC and ASEAN, that can play a vital role for the future social, economic and political development.”
Malaysia was appointed as country coordinator on behalf of ASEAN to organize the “historical summit,” Zambry said.
“We are playing a crucial role to make sure that ASEAN and GCC will become one of the most formidable multilateral (relationship) … for the years to come.”
As ASEAN countries engaged more with Gulf states last year, London-based think tank Asia House said it was expecting ties to become more important between the two regions. In a December 2022 report, Asia House said there are “natural synergies” between ASEAN and Gulf visions for economic growth, as their countries invested more in digitalization, manufacturing and logistics infrastructure to boost exports.
Malaysia has also been forging closer bilateral cooperation with Gulf countries.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was on a state visit to the UAE in early October for talks on a free trade pact, during which Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company PJSC (Masdar) committed to invest up to $8 billion to develop renewable energy projects in Malaysia.
The agreement was “a beginning for a larger cooperation” between Malaysia and UAE, Zambry said.
Malaysia is eyeing a boost in relations with Saudi Arabia as well, with which the Southeast Asian nation said it has “very special ties.”
“We hope that we will be able to remain so and that we will further strengthen our relations, but in different fields,” Zambry said. “Saudi Arabia always remains special to Malaysia.”