The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) today ended their two-day 64th conference, which was held in Abha, and issued a press communiqué stating that the meeting had reviewed the latest developments in the progress of cooperation among the GCC members states in all fields, economic, military, social, and informational as well as political, international and security affairs.
Of particular concern was the extent to which Iraq was complying with the UN resolutions regarding its aggression against Kuwait, and the communiqué reiterated full adherence to the relevant resolutions as the only way for sanctions to be lifted, adding that prisoners of war and other detainees should be released, and all stolen Kuwait property, public and private, should be returned. Iraq must also cooperate with the special Security Council committee assigned to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, pay all compensations that are due, and refrain from making any provocative gesture against Kuwait or any neighboring country. The ministerial council, however, urged Iraq to fully comply with the oil-for-food formula agreed upon with the United Nations for the sake of the suffering Iraqi people, and reiterated its call for the preservation of Iraq's independence, sovereignty, and territorial unity.
The communiqué went on to express deep regret that the Republic of Iran continues to refuse to respond to repeated calls by the United Arab Emirates, GCC member states, and other regional and international organizations, to solve the problem of its occupation of the three Gulf islands belonging to the UAE. At the same time, the ministerial council reaffirmed its policy of aiming to establish relations with Iran based on good neighborliness, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's domestic affairs, noting with hope and optimism recent positive overtures by the new Iranian President Muhammad Khatami.
Concerning the Middle East peace process, the council reiterated its support of the efforts exerted by all parties to revive the peace talks, blaming the current deterioration on the hard-line policies and practices of the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the measures amounting to economic and social siege and humiliation that are being taken by Israel against the Palestinian people. The communiqué stated that Madrid and the UN resolutions regarding the Palestinian problem are still the yardstick to which all should adhere. In this respect, the GCC foreign ministers commended the statements made by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last night during, and following, her meeting with them in Abha.
The communiqué also expressed appreciation of the stance of the European Union demanding that Israel recognize the Palestinians' right to self-determination, including that of establishing an independent state. Concerning terrorism, the ministerial council called on all countries providing refuge to terrorists to differentiate between protection and observation of human rights and condoning acts of terrorism committed by such agents.