The foreign ministers of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held their 75th regular meeting yesterday in Jeddah under the chairmanship of Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal. Attending were, from the United Arab Emirates, Rashid Bin Abdullah Al-Nuaimi; from Bahrain, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa; from Oman, Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah; from Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani; and from Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Also present was GCC Secretary-General Sheikh Jamil Bin Ibrahim Al-Hujeilan.
Addressing the meeting, Prince Saud Al-Faisal referred to the second GCC consultative summit in Muscat as evidence of the concern of the GCC leaders for better relations among its members. To this effect, he expressed the hope that the State of Bahrain and the State of Qatar would demonstrate good neighborliness. He also referred to the recent meeting in Brussels between the GCC and the European Union (EU), which made progress in concluding an agreement on a free-trade zone, and attested to the GCC's interest in diversifying and expanding its relations with all the world's economic blocs.
Turning to the Middle East peace process, he said Israel's intransigence was the main obstacle causing the current stalemate, while the Arab side was adhering to peace as an irreversible strategic option. He appealed to all parties concerned to put pressure on Israel for a comprehensive and just peace based on the United Nations resolutions. Congratulating Lebanon on the liberation of its southern region, he stressed the important role to be played by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in securing and stabilizing that fragile peace.
As for Iraq, Prince Saud attested to the fact GCC policy is still based on Iraq implementing all relevant UN Security Council resolutions. The GCC and the Arab world uphold the unity and independence of the Republic of Iraq, and work for alleviation of its people's sufferings; these efforts, he said, are blocked through the Iraqi government's rejection of all international initiatives in this respect.
In the case of Iran, Prince Saud declared that the GCC is concerned that relations with Tehran should be based on the principles of good neighborliness, mutual respect, non-interference in each others' internal affairs, and resort to peaceful means to solve disputes. He mentioned the directives from the consultative summit in Muscat to the tripartite committee on the ongoing dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the three islands in the Arabian Gulf.
Prince Saud said the GCC is following with concern the fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and urged the two sides to resort to peaceful means to solve their border dispute. He welcomed, however, their acceptance of Algerian mediation.
In a press statement following the meeting, the GCC foreign ministers expressed regret at Iraq's continuing persistence in ignoring the UN resolutions, and called on the Iraqi government to show good will in words and deeds, by complying with UN Security Council resolution 949 and refraining from aggressive actions towards any neighboring country. The ministers advised Baghdad to recognize that its invasion of Kuwait was in violation of all Arab and international charters. They further advised the Iraqi government to cooperate at once with UN resolution 1254 and the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission and other bodies dealing with the release of prisoners of war and other detainees and the return of Kuwaiti property. The foreign ministers welcomed the Security Council resolution to double the amount allocated for the repair of Iraqi oil facilities from U.S $ 0.6 to 1.2 billion, and welcomed all initiatives to alleviate the sufferings of the Iraqi people, blaming the Iraqi regime for their continuation.
The statement explained that in the economic sphere, the foreign ministers reviewed recommendations made by the 5th meeting of municipal affairs officials, and the 52nd meeting of the financial and economic cooperation committee; and expressed satisfaction at the declaration of principles signed last month between the GCC and the EU as being in line with the aim of establishing strong relations with international economic blocs.
The foreign ministers also reviewed recommendations from committees on higher education and scientific research; social services and health, including red crescent societies; protection of the marine environment; and joint military cooperation.
Concerning Iran, the foreign ministers reiterated the GCC stance for good neighborliness, mutual respect, non-intervention in each others' affairs, rejection of the use of power or threats, and resolution of disputes through peaceful means. Recalling the directives by the GCC Supreme Council in Muscat on April 29, 2000, for continuation of efforts by the tripartite ministerial committee to find a mechanism for initiating direct negotiations between the UAE and Iran regarding their dispute over the three UAE islands, the ministers expressed the hope that the Iranian government would respond to the noble goal for which the committee was established.
Concerning the Middle East peace process, the foreign ministers hold Israel responsible for its delay, while the Arab side remains committed to peace as a strategic choice. They renewed calls on the sponsors of the peace process, including the United States of America, Russia, and the EU, to follow the Madrid principles and restore all legitimate Arab rights. A just and lasting peace, they declared, would not be achieved without restoring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, ensuring the right of Palestinian refugees to return home, and complete Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights to the June 4,1967 border.
The foreign ministers congratulated Lebanon on the liberation of its land with the Israeli withdrawal from its southern region and from western Bakaa. It called on Israel to complete its withdrawal from the rest of the Lebanese territories, asserting the importance of UN forces in carrying out the security mission they are entrusted with. They went on to renew their call on the international community to make the Middle East an area free from all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and reaffirmed the necessity of Israel joining the non-proliferation treaty and opening its nuclear facilities to international inspection represented by the International Agency for Atomic Energy.