Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal represented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the two-day meeting in Latakia, Syria, of the foreign ministers of the eight member states of the Damascus Declaration [the GCC states, plus Egypt and Syria]. Yesterday, a final statement was read by GCC Secretary-General Jameel Al-Hujeilan, in which the member states reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of the Arab charters and resolutions, including those of the Arab Summit in Cairo in June, 1996, and confirmed anew that a just and comprehensive peace in the region requires restoration of Arab rights in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, notably 242, 338 and 425, which call for full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, in order to enable the Palestinians to exercise their legitimate rights including that of self-determination and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital. The ministers strongly rejected attempts by the Israeli government to retreat from its previous obligations, and demanded that the two sponsors of the peace process, and especially the United States, guarantee the implementation of these obligations.
The statement expressed full support for the position of Syria and its just demands for restoration of its occupied lands, and for all measures Syria may take to face up to any threats or provocation from any source. It also welcomed the stance on the Middle East peace process expressed by the European Union at the Summit in Amsterdam [in the Netherlands], and that of the Summit of Industrialized Nations [Group of Seven] in Denver in the United States, and hoped that these countries would be able to save the process and pave the way for resumption of the peace talks on not only the Syrian but also the other tracks.
On the other hand, the statement expressed extreme regret at the decision of the United States House of Representatives concerning Al-Quds [Jerusalem], deploring it as running counter to the UN resolutions and the principles of Madrid, and called on Congress to reconsider the decision, citing with appreciation the stance of the U.S. administration on this matter.
Reviewing the Arab League's resolution last March concerning the normalization process with Israel and cooperation in the region, the statement laid blame on the Israeli side for hindering this process because of its government's anti-peace policies and non-compliance with its peace obligations, and vowed to continue to monitor developments and make an assessment of them at their upcoming meeting to be held in Cairo in September coinciding with the meeting of the Ministerial Council of the League of Arab States.
The statement also declared the need for clearing the Middle East, including the area of the Arabian Gulf, of all weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear arms, and demanded that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and accept the guarantees set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In addition, the statement expressed grave concern at the Turkish/Israeli military cooperation which constitutes a threat to the security of Arab countries and the stability of the Middle East, and contradicts the Charter of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as well as the traditional bonds between Turkey and the Arab world. The statement urged Turkey to reconsider its position on cooperation with Israel and honor its normal and historical ties with the Arab countries, and denounced Turkish infiltration into northern Iraq, which violates international law and Iraq's territorial integrity. The statement made it clear, however, that Iraq should comply with the UN resolutions concerning the invasion of Kuwait, release Kuwaiti and other prisoners of war and detainees, and restore Kuwaiti property in addition to paying the requisite compensation, as well as refraining from provocative and aggressive acts against Kuwait and other countries in the region. The statement also called on Iraq to cooperate with the committee assigned to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, the statement declared sympathy for the Iraqi people, holding the Iraqi government fully responsible for their plight and called for adequate means to be found to alleviate their suffering, expressing satisfaction at the extension of the UN resolution concerning oil for food.
Concerning the UAE's three islands that are occupied by Iran, the statement deplored Iran's continued intransigence, and regretted the Iranian government's rejection of repeated calls to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict, expressing full support of the UAE in any measures to restore its sovereignty by peaceful means, and calling on Iran to end the occupation and cease from all steps designed to further such occupation, and to pursue peaceful means to end the conflict including referring the issue to the international court of justice. On the other hand, the statement welcomed overtures made by the Iranian President-Elect to open a new page in the relations between Iran and the Arab world, expressing readiness to improve ties with Iran on the basis of mutual respect, good neighborliness, and the principles of international law.
Reaffirming rejection of all terrorist acts and the use of terrorism for political goals, the statement called for differentiation between acts of legitimate national resistance against aggression and occupation, and acts of pure terrorism.
The statement referred to the continued consultation of the eight foreign ministers on a charter for joint action among Arab nations as well as bilateral protocols under the umbrella of the League of Arab States, and said this charter will be submitted to their respective governments for final approval and forwarding to the League. The statement emphasized the importance of cooperation among member states in order to face up to the global phenomena of fundamentalism, violence, and acts of terrorism. Reviewing proposals from Egypt and Syria on setting up a free trade zone among the countries of the Damascus Declaration as a core for an Arab common market, the statement said that Egyptian and Syrian experts will meet with GCC experts in Riyadh next month to review the regulations of the GCC's unified economic agreement, and following this a meeting will be held in Cairo to work out the executive details.