Citizens of the GCC member states are optimistic that the upcoming 19th summit of GCC leaders in Abu Dhabi that begins on December 7, 1998, will be of direct benefit to them. The Council has emerged as a prominent and effective body, projecting the goals of the GCC governments and the ambitions of their people as well as their joint mission for unity and integration. The formation of the Council was a major step in the transition of the Gulf from the stage of bilateral cooperation to one of coordination and joint operations among the GCC states and its peoples, who have common social, cultural, economic and political characteristics.
Since its establishment on May 25, 1981, the GCC has recorded major accomplishments in a number of fields, and realized the expectations of its citizens, defining the mutual goals and desires sought by its leaders during their annual summit conferences. The GCC has shown a strong and distinguished presence at Arab, Islamic and international forums, and in the sphere of foreign policy has been pursuing up clear and truthful stances based on the principle of non-alignment, respect for international laws, and non-intervention in the affairs of other countries.
The GCC member states have supported all constructive and peaceful efforts being exerted by the international community to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue in accordance with the United Nations charter. The policy of the GCC is rejection of the continuing deviousness of the Israeli government in not implementing the agreements it signed with the Palestinians; this generates a real danger that threatens the chance of peace and forces a return to conflict. In agreement with the resolutions of the Arab Summit, and in constant support of the realization of a just, comprehensive and durable peace in accordance with the principle of land for peace and UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425, the GCC states continue to promote the Middle East peace process. The GCC has supported, and is still supporting, Syria for retrieval of the occupied Golan Heights, and has called on the Israeli government to resume its negotiations on the Syrian track from where they were stalled. It has also called on Israel to withdraw completely from southern Lebanon and the western Beka'a valley as well as from all occupied lands that are under Lebanon's sovereignty according to UN Security Council resolution 425.
In the face of Iraqi aggression on Kuwait, the GCC took a historic stand in support of one of its member states, which led to its liberation from Iraqi occupation with the help of the brotherly and friendly countries that stood with it against the aggressor. It has also demonstrated a unified stand against the occupation of the three islands of the United Arab Emirates, showing full support for all procedures and options undertaken to restore sovereignty over these islands to the UAE.
The GCC enjoys special relationships with the Islamic world, of which it forms a part, and has been extending consistent support on all Islamic issues, to states, institutions, and organizations such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), whose meetings it has hosted and whose activities it supports.
The GCC has been backing the Afghani people, urging the country's conflicting sides to cease fighting for the sake of the nation of Afghanistan, and calling on both sides to abide by the Makkah Accord and the efforts of the United Nations in this regard so that peace and stability prevail in this Muslim country. The GCC has also supported the struggle of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina against Serbian aggression, and upholds the Dayton agreement which ended it, urging the UN Security Council to take all necessary measures to preserve international security and peace and force the aggressors to implement the international resolutions, and calling on the international community to provide this Muslim country all assistance in addition to that extended to it by the GCC governments and peoples.
Within the Gulf region, the GCC has established economic cooperation aimed at realizing the economic integration of its member states. In order to attain this goal, the GCC Supreme Council signed a unified economic accord at its second summit in Riyadh. During its third summit in Manama, the Supreme Council decided on implementation of some of the articles of this accord, effective March 1, 1983. Joint institutions established include the Kuwait-based Gulf Investments Corporation, the GCC Standards and Specifications Organization, and the Gulf Technical Office for Communications.
The 13th conference of GCC interior ministers, held in Riyadh in November, 1994, endorsed the GCC security agreement project, which was signed by four of the member states and endorsed by the 15th Summit in Manama in December 1994. The GCC has also made a great deal of progress in realizing military cooperation in the spheres of studies and coordination to strengthen their armed forces. It has endorsed a number of resolutions related to defense policies in varied fields of military cooperation.
In the sphere of information cooperation, the GCC leaders approved a resolution related to external information during the 7th Summit, held in Abu Dhabi. During the 11th Summit, the leaders also endorsed a joint information plan for the GCC states to follow up and examine international information. The GCC General Secretariat has implemented some of the programs to strengthen ties with international mass media organs. It has prepared a number of information reports in English, French and Dutch. At present, there are three joint GCC information institutions. Within the framework of information cooperation, the GCC has been highlighting the importance of fighting the phenomenon of terrorism, which calls for international efforts to eliminate it for the benefit of global welfare, peace and stability.
Other accomplishments of the GCC are resolutions aimed at backing cooperation and coordination among the member states for the benefit of GCC citizens, such as endorsement of the recommendation of the GCC Defense Ministers for complete integration in this area. Procedures have also been approved for facilitating movement of GCC citizens and trade exchanges between member states, including issuance to GCC citizens of passports that could be scanned electronically. Within two years, the necessary procedures will be completed for unification of customs tariffs for foreign trade and the establishment of a GCC customs federation. Moreover, the Supreme Council has endorsed a number of major procedures to realize the establishment of a common market in the Gulf. It has also endorsed resolutions allowing banks in GCC states to open branches in other member states.