Meeting in Jeddah yesterday were the foreign ministers of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), namely: First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah; Foreign Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Mohammad Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa; Minister in Charge of Foreign Affairs of Oman Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah; Foreign Minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Jaber Al-Thani; Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Rashid Bin Abdullah Al-Naimi; and Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal, who chaired this, the 74th session, in the presence of GCC Secretary-General Jameel Bin Ibrahim Al-Hujeilan.
Speaking on the occasion, Prince Saud Al-Faisal noted that the meeting follows the 20th GCC Summit in Riyadh that adopted a number of resolutions on economic, political and security issues, providing clear evidence of the GCC's determination to keep up with regional and international developments and changes. He referred specifically to proposals for a GCC customs federation, and the enhancement of economic cooperation. On the Middle East, he said the peace process still faces difficulties, and attributed to Israel's intransigence the failure of the Geneva Summit attended by Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad and U.S. President Bill Clinton. If Israel is serious about peace, he said, then it should cease the attacks on Lebanon and withdraw unconditionally from southern Lebanon and western Baka'a in line with UN resolution 425. On the GCC's relations with Iran, Prince Saud remarked that these are based on the principles of good neighborliness and Islamic brotherhood, mutual respect and non-interference in the domestic affairs of others, adding that the three-member committee negotiating talks between Iran and the United Arab Emirates embodies this.
In the communiqué issued today the GCC foreign ministers welcomed recent agreements between Bahrain and Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, and Bahrain and the UAE, allowing their citizens free movement in each other's country with identity cards only.
The communiqué expressed regret at Iraq's continuing rejection of Arab and international appeals for an effective mechanism for lifting the economic sanctions, and welcomed UN resolution number 1284 of December 17, 1999 on this matter. The ministers also welcomed UN resolution number 1293 of March 31, 2000, increasing from U.S. $600 million to $1.2 billion, the amounts allocated for the repair of Iraq's oil facilities. Endorsing the appointment of Hans Blix as head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), they urged Iraq to prove its peaceful good intentions toward its neighbors in words and deeds by responding positively to UN resolution number 1284, UNMOVIC, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other concerned international bodies.
The communiqué expressed the hope that Iran would respond to the endeavors of the tripartite ministerial committee assigned to establish a mechanism for the start of its direct negotiations with the UAE.
Concerning the Middle East peace process, the ministers urged Israel to implement the third re-deployment phase in agreement with the Palestinian Authority, and expressed the hope that the two sides would be able to reach an agreement on the final status prior to September 13, 2000. They blamed Israel's intransigence for the failure of the recent meeting in Geneva between the American and Syrian presidents, and underlined that a just and comprehensive peace will not be realized unless the Palestinian people obtain their full legitimate rights, establishing their independent state on their national soil with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital; and unless Israel withdraws unconditionally from the Syran Golan Heights, southern Lebanon and western Baka'a. The communiqué went on to denounce the Israeli air raids that targeted Lebanon's infrastructure, and called on the international community and the UN Secretary-General to intervene to prevent a recurrence of Israeli aggression against Lebanon.
Reviewing the Kingdom's concern about human rights in accordance with the stipulations of Islamic shariah [Law], the foreign ministers denounced the recent unjustifiable stance against Saudi Arabia by Amnesty International and other non-governmental organizations.
On Kashmir, the communiqué noted that talks between India and Pakistan will be of help in creating a climate leading towards the solution of the issue. On Chechnya, the foreign ministers renewed the GCC's call on the Russian Federation to solve the problem through peaceful means, and to allow the access of humanitarian assistance.
At a press conference today, Prince Saud Al-Faisal stressed that the Government of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz has always sought what is the best for the Saudi people in accordance with its regulations, which are inspired by Islamic shariah [Law]. In reply to a question on whether the establishment of two human rights commissions was a result of foreign pressures, he said the decision was taken independently, and that only one is a government body. In any case, he added, human rights issues are not new in the Kingdom, since Saudi Arabia participates in those agreements that do not contradict Islamic shariah, and the Basic Law of Governance encompasses all the rights enjoyed by Saudi citizens and residents in the Kingdom. He praised the GCC's denunciation of the Amnesty International campaign, which, he said, is not based on facts, adding that Saudi Arabia has in the past received admiration from workers of human rights organizations for responses presented to them.
Meanwhile, in Doha yesterday a seminar opened entitled 'Activation of the Role of Gulf Employees in the Economic and Social Development of the Gulf Cooperation Council States'. The seminar is discussing how to achieve the strategic goals of the GCC's long-term comprehensive development plan for 2000 to 2025 approved by the Supreme Council in 1998.