The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud, criticized Oman today for its participation in the U.S. military exercises under way in the Middle East and also said the kingdom had not used American surveillance aircraft to detect the Israeli warplanes that violated Saudi airspace Monday.
At a press conference opening the second summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, the prince said that the four American AWACS planes presently stationed here had played "no role" in the incident because, he said, "they are not operating in that region."
A Saudi military communique issued last night said a number of Israeli planes violated Saudi airspace by flying over the northwestern area of the kingdom but were met by Saudi jets and forced to turn back.
Prince Saud said such Israeli violations had "of course" occurred before and reflected the "nature of Israel" in its attitude toward the Arab world.
The Saudis have not usually publicized these violations in the past, and it appears they are giving this one special attention because of the conference taking place here and their desire to impress upon the five other Persian Gulf states the need for a collective security system.
Saud also made it clear that Oman's participation in the current Bright Star military exercises of the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force was contrary to the principle of nonalignment to which the council adhered, and he said the summit planned to take up the issue formally.
"These principles of nonalignment were accepted by all member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the role of this conference is to review the practical steps in applying these principles," he said.
"As to the effect of that on the military exercises, this will have to be assessed and evaluated in the summit conference," he added.
His comments highlighted the difficult position Oman has been placed in even with its conservative Arab neighbors by its participation, albeit a minor one, in the month-long " military maneuvers.
The council of the six kings, sheiks and sultans of Arabia, the heartland of the Arab world, is also scheduled to discuss the Saudi plan for a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement and approve a project for a gulf security pact and a common economic agreement.
The council, which was organized in February, has become increasingly preoccupied with the issue of security because of the 14-month-old Iranian-Iraqi war and Israeli strikes this summer into Lebanon and on the Iraqi nuclear reactor outside Baghdad.
Despite vast differences of size, wealth and relations with the superpowers, the six Persian Gulf Arab states have similar political systems and have been driven together by events to agree on the need for some kind of joint security arrangement to protect themselves from outside interference.
The six -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman -- are of crucial importance to the West because they are located in the center of the Arab world. Together they provide roughly half the daily production of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and with a combined annual income of around $150 billion, they have become the center of the financial world outside the industrialized countries.
Their continued stability and the possibility of Soviet or other outside interference to overthrow their ruling monarchies has been the subject of growing concern and debate in U.S. policy-making circles.
The Reagan administration recently confirmed a Washington Post report that it has been discussing with Saudi officials an "integrated defense" system to protect the conservative Arab states in the Persian Gulf. An agreement here this summer on closer security among the six would seem crucial to implementation of such a strategy.
However, the six council members are not necessarily in agreement with Washington on what constitutes the most serious threat to their security. Nor do they concur among themselves about how openly or closely they should be linked to the West generally and the United States in particular.
"These people are on a different wave length. Apart from Oman they don't see any imminency to a Soviet threat," remarked John Duke Anthony, a gulf specialist from Johns Hopkins Foreign Policy Institute in Washington, who is here attending the summit as an observer. "They are far more interested with regional, intraregional and internal security issues."
Their most immediate common concern, according to Anthony, is the spillover of the Iranian-Iraqi war into their territories and the call by Iran's Shiite leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to the Shiite minorities in their societies to rise up to overthrow their governments.
Neither Iran nor, more significantly Iraq, a fellow Arab gulf state, has been invited to join the council. The official reason is that the members do not want to get involved in the war between the two more militarily powerful nations.
But it is no secret that many of the council's members regard both Iran's Islamic revolution and Iraq's socialist Baath government as major sources of their security concerns. In addition, Iraq has a longstanding border dispute with Kuwait, which was part of Iraq during the 19th century Ottoman rule.
Even Kuwait, which earlier this year downplayed the need for a joint defense policy, seems to have changed its mind after several Iranian attacks on its territory, the last one in late September when Iranian warplanes hit one of its oil fields.
Iran in particular seems to have served as a catalyst in convincing all six states to take more seriously the security issue, which Oman, at the other end of the gulf, has been pressing the council from its beginning to make a priority.
Oman has submitted a working paper calling for the creation of a joint naval force and military maneuvers, the unification of air defense systems to cover the entire gulf, an integrated early warning system and the building of a north-south pipeline linking all the oil fields to an Indian Ocean terminal bypassing the highly vulnerable Hormuz Strait.
The Sultanate of Oman has been the one gulf state preoccupied by Soviet moves in the region because it fought a long war against Soviet- and Cuban-supported guerrillas based in neighboring South Yemen.
Oman is also the only one of the six that has signed a formal written agreement allowing the United States to make limited use of its naval and air facilities. It is the sole gulf Arab state participating in this month's Bright Star exercise.
Several council members, particularly Kuwait, have been trying to wean Oman away from its formal military ties with the United States and to convince South Yemen to end Soviet access to Yemeni facilities.
Kuwait is the only one of the six that now has diplomatic ties with Moscow. Only Oman and Kuwait have relations with Peking.
In the council debate over its members' links to the superpowers, Saudi Arabia seems to stand in the middle. The kingdom's leaders repeatedly have come out against any formal agreements for bases or facilities with any of the superpowers, arguing that they only serve as "lightning rods" attracting greater Soviet-American involvement in the region.
On the other hand, it has apparently agreed to discuss American use of Saudi facilities on an informal basis much as Egypt now permits. Its special military and political relationship with Washington is expected to become even closer following the Senate's approval of the sale of five Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes to the kingdom as part of an $8.5 billion arms package.
These surveillance planes would appear to be the key link to any joint early warning and defense system set up in the future under the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The additional urgency the council is attaching to the security question is underlined by the presence here for the summit of the chiefs of staff of the six members. They already held a separate preparatory four-day meeting here in September, the first ever, an event Anthony called "a major breakthrough" in intraregional military cooperation.
In addition to approving a plan for military cooperation, the council's summit is also expected to endorse the eight-point plan of Saudi Crown Prince Fahd for a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement serving as an alternative to the American-sponsored Camp David approach.
The Saudi plan calls for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab lands captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, including East Jerusalem, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in return for Arab recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace.
The third main point on the council's agenda is discussion of a draft economic agreement, the first of its kind serving to harmonize their often competing industrial projects and development plans.