The Ministerial Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) comprising the foreign ministers of the six member states, today concluded its two-day 58th session in Riyadh under the chairmanship of Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Youssef Bin Alawi Abdullah.
The communiqué issued by the council began by expressing pleasure at the full recovery of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, and then praised the State of Oman for establishing regulations governing appointment to the post of GCC Secretary-General in accordance with the rotational system endorsed at the Muscat meeting of the GCC Supreme Council in December 1995.
Reviewing developments in the Iraqi situation, the council regretted that Iraq has not carried out its international obligations as stipulated by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. As for the suspect behavior of the Iraqi regime concerning the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, the council emphasized the need for all countries to support the efforts of the appropriate UN committee, and expressed concern that the Iraqi regime is exploiting certain border checkpoints for the smuggling of ingredients for aggressive weapons, thus hampering the mission of the UN inspection teams in violation of Resolution 687. While regretting the deterioration in the living and health condition of the brotherly Iraqi people, the council holds the Iraqi regime fully responsible on account of its ill-conducted policy, and calls on Iraq to implement the humanitarian articles of Resolution 986 to alleviate their bitter suffering. The council, while nevertheless reaffirming its concern for the territorial integration and sovereignty of Iraq, further calls on the international community to maintain pressure on the Iraqi government until all relevant resolutions are complied with, including those concerning the freeing of prisoners and the returning of all property.
The council then reviewed relations between the GCC states and the Islamic Republic of Iran and the question of its occupation of the three islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa which belong to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The council declared Iran’s establishment of an airport on Abu Musa on March 10, 1996 as an unjustified act of provocation, reiterating its deep regret that Iran has made no response to the UAE’s repeated calls to settle this question peacefully. The GCC steadfastly backs the UAE, and calls for referral of the matter to the International Court of Justice.
Reviewing the developments in the Middle East Peace Process from an unwavering position of support for the realization of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region on the basis of the concept of land for peace and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the council expressed appreciation for international efforts underway to realize that goal especially those of the United States. While expressing satisfaction at the Palestinian legislative and presidential elections, and at the re-deployment of the Israeli army in most parts of the West Bank in compliance with the second phase of the self-rule agreement, the council calls on Israel to lift the blockade imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to fully comply with bilateral agreements with the Palestinians, to refrain from any act that might contradict with the trend of peace and begin talks for the final phase towards full Israeli withdrawal from the remaining occupied lands including Al-Quds Al-Sherif (Jerusalem). The council also hoped that efforts would be intensified to remove obstacles delaying the progress of talks on the Syrian/Israeli track, expressing full support for the Syrian position that Israel must withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines existing prior to June 4, 1967, and that similar momentum on the Lebanese/Israeli track would end Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 425.
Referring to the Summit of the Peacemakers at Sharm Al-Sheikh, the council expressed deep appreciation of the efforts exerted by the Arab Republic of Egypt under the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak to ensure its success, and endorsed full support for its resolutions. The council called on the two sponsors to resume the Madrid Conference for Peace in the Middle East, in order to accelerate the peace process. While acknowledging that violence and extremism are international phenomena, the council reiterates its condemnation and full rejection of all their manifestations and in particular those that harm the security and stability of the region or hamper the Middle East Peace Process, and calls on the international community to coordinate efforts to check violent and terrorist acts.
Citing the resolutions of the supreme council of the GCC in its 16th session in Muscat concerning the honor code for foreign information work the council emphasized the importance of cooperation among all member states to confront biased media campaigns.
Reviewing developments in the Bosnian situation, the council welcomed steps taken to implement the Dayton Accord for Peace and noted with satisfaction the solidarity among GCC citizens in response to the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nayahan, President of the UAE, in organizing fund-raising campaigns for the reconstruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The council also reviewed the dispute between Yemen and Eritrea over the Hanish Islands, and underlined the need to contain the crisis by peaceful means guaranteeing the rights and preserving the historical ties of the two countries, and by mediation efforts on the basis of international law and the principles of the UN charter.
In the economic arena, the council discussed the issue of customs tariffs in accordance with the Muscat resolution, and called for a joint meeting in June 1996 between the ministerial council and the committee for economic and financial cooperation in order to find a solution encompassing the articles of the unified economic agreement and providing the required flexibility for consensus. In addition, the council approved the system for patents and associated fees for inventions in the GCC states and authorized the Bureau of Patents to introduce the required amendments.
Concerning negotiations with the European Union (EU) the council reviewed the joint ministerial meeting to be held in Luxembourg in April 1996, and agreed that there is a need for expansion of investment and trade exchanges between the GCC and the EU, notably in the private sector. The council was briefed on a recent meeting of experts in Brussels and on negotiating machinery adopted by the GCC. In addition, the council expressed satisfaction at the success of the second GCC/US Business Conference in Manama on March 10-13.
In conclusion, the ministerial council thanked out-going secretary-general Sheikh Fahim Al-Qasimi for his outstanding diplomatic and political skills in contributing to the GCC’s tremendous achievements over the last three years, and welcomed new secretary-general Jamil Ibrahim Al-Hujeilan.