The leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) today ended their 22nd summit. In addition to Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the two-day Summit, hosted by Sultan Qaboos in Muscat, Oman, was attended by Vice President of the United Arab Emirates Shaikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al-Maktoum; Emir of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa; Emir of Qatar Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani; and Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, representing Kuwaiti Emir Shaikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah.
At the concluding session today the GCC leaders signed a unified economic agreement. Secretary-General Shaikh Jameel Al-Hujeilan then read the final communiqué, which began by congratulating Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz on the twentieth anniversary of his accession to the throne of Saudi Arabia, and praising the great achievements of his reign.
The communiqué reported that economic cooperation within the GCC was reviewed, and, with the aim of achieving a common market and monetary union, a new economic agreement was ratified, replacing that of November 1981. The new agreement is in line with economic developments and takes into consideration international variables. Addressing the procedural steps for the establishment of the GCC customs union, it was decided to bring its enforcement forward to January 1, 2003, and to lower the customs tariffs to 5 percent on all imported foreign commodities, unless exempted in accordance with the decision taken at the 20th GCC Summit of November 1999. In accordance with regulations, the Supreme Council resolved to waive all fees enforced on machinery and raw materials imported into the GCC for industrial purposes, and directed the monetary and economic committee to follow up on this.
The Council also ratified the new system of unified customs regulations in its amended form, adopted its executive charter and explanatory appendix, and resolved that its enforcement be effective January 1, 2002. In anticipation of the establishment of the GCC monetary union and the initiation of a unified currency, the Council determined a timetable and directed the committee of governors and central banks to apply, within a period not to exceed the end of 2002, the Council's resolution pertaining to the adoption of the U.S. dollar as a common denominator for GCC currencies. In order to launch the unified currency within a period not to exceed January 1, 2010, the Council also directed the committee of monetary and economic cooperation and the committee of governors to coordinate, within a period not to exceed 2005, the necessary economic performance standards essential to the success of the monetary union. To achieve statistical integration among GCC member states, to formalize procedures, and to save expense, the Council resolved to unify the timing of general censuses, starting 2010.
The Council approved regulations for agricultural extension after amendment following recommendations from certain member states and in conformity with relevant international organizations; and reviewed the progress of the specifications and measurements authorities in line with the upcoming establishment of the customs union. To enhance economic development, member states are asked to continue facilitating loans for development projects, notably in Bahrain and Oman.
The Council reviewed the status of previous resolutions regarding job opportunities for GCC citizens within the member states; urged education ministers to implement the joint plan aimed at the development of school curricula; and called on member states to take action against environmental hazards, for example establishing facilities for shipping wastes, managing dangerous chemicals, and conserving wildlife.
The Council adopted the following as consultative regulations: the Abu Dhabi document on delinquency; the Manama legislature on legal representation and on civic proceedings; and the Muscat regulations on evidence. It also resolved to maintain for four more years the validity of the Kuwait document on unified civic law, and the Doha document on unified penal law.
Turning to the issue of Iraq, the Council urged the Iraqi government to fulfill its commitments to the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, including respecting the security and sovereignty of the State of Kuwait, resuming cooperation with the UN, taking all necessary measures to show its peaceful intentions, and putting a stop to all provocative and hostile actions against Kuwait. The Council urged Iraq and the UN Secretary-General to resume cooperation in a way that allows the Security Council to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in order to end the suffering of the Iraqi people, and reiterated its firm stance of respect for Iraq's independence and non-interference in its internal affairs.
The Council then addressed the issue of Iran's occupation of the three islands, Lesser and Greater Tunbs and Abu Mousa, that belong to the United Arab Emirates, recalling the resolutions adopted at the 21st GCC Summit. The Council stressed UAE's total sovereignty over the three islands, their territorial waters, air space, continental shelf and economic zoning; expressed its full support for all measures taken by the UAE to regain this sovereignty through peaceful means; and absolutely rejected all Iranian claims to the islands as illegal. It renewed its call on Iran to refer the dispute to the international court of justice.
The Council reviewed with alarm and concern the dangerous deteriorating situation in the West Bank and Gaza as a result of the Israeli government's use of brutal means of oppression against the Palestinian people, with its continuing policy of blockade and siege, attacks on Palestinian territory and reoccupation of Palestinian towns. The Council expressed particular concern over the grave consequences for the whole region if this situation is not properly addressed, affirming that Israel alone is responsible for the failure of the peace process. The Council asserted that the current wave of violence is the direct result of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands and its failure to heed the agreements reached by the two parties, and the fundamentals of the peace process as laid down in Madrid. Israel's irresponsible decision to sever all contacts with the Palestinian Authority indicates a lack of seriousness in pursuing a just, well-balanced peace, and shows no desire to participate in the peace process.
The Council reiterated its full support to the Palestinian Authority and President Yasser Arafat, calling on the Palestinian people to stand behind their leadership and work to regain all their legitimate rights including that of self determination and an independent state with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital; and affirmed that it will take on a major role in building up the Palestinian infrastructure. It also called on the international community to work for peace and stability in the Palestinian territories, and declared that a just and comprehensive peace will not be achieved unless the Palestinians regain all their legitimate rights, including an independent state on their national land with Al-Quds as its capital, in addition to complete Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights and all Lebanese territories, and the release of all captured Lebanese and prisoners of war.
The Council also reiterated its strong condemnation of Israel's policy of escalation that threatens its neighbors' security and stability, and again stressed the importance of differentiating between military occupation and terrorism, which is denounced.
The Council expressed its appreciation of the efforts of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz and Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in explaining the Arab position on current issues, and affirming the necessity of activating the peace process and promoting the right of the Palestinians to establish their independent state with Al-Quds as its capital.
The Council welcomed the speech of the President of the United States before the United Nations in which he outlined the U.S. vision of a Palestinian state and the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. The Council also welcomed the speech of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on the concept of the Palestinian State.
The Council renewed its demand to the international community to make the Middle East a region free of any type of weapon of mass destruction, including nuclear arms; and stressed that Israel should join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open all its nuclear facilities to the international inspection teams.
The Council expressed appreciation of the key role of the Republic of Yemen in the stability of the Arabian Peninsula, and announced that Yemen will participate in the Council of GCC Ministers of Health, the GCC Bureau of Education, the Council of GCC Ministers of Labor and Social Affairs, and the GCC Soccer Tournament. This step will be followed by others, to reflect positively on the development of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
Turning to Afghanistan, the Council welcomed the formation of the new interim government under the chairmanship of Hamed Karazai, affirming the readiness of the GCC to cooperate with it to fulfill the aspirations of the Afghan people for stability and economic development.
Condemning the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament on December 12, 2001, the Council expressed the belief that combating terrorism should fall within the framework of international legitimacy as defined by the UN Security Council; and hoped that India and Pakistan will practice the highest self-restraint and be positive in their attitudes.
Concerning the phenomenon of extremism, violence and terrorism, the Council condemned all the acts of terror committed against the United States on September 11, 2001, and expressed its support to the international alliance against terrorism, renewing its full cooperation with the international community to uproot this destructive phenomenon. The Council urged Muslim scholars to demonstrate the Islamic values and principles that are based on tolerance and rejection of killings, and called on the people of other religions, in the name of reason, to refrain from accusing Islam of actions that are alien to it.
The communiqué ended with appreciation for the efforts of Shaikh Jameel Al-Hujeilan during his term of office of Secretary-General, which will expire at the end of March, 2002; and announced the appointment to this office of Qatari Minister of State Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al-Ateyyah. The 23rd GCC Summit is scheduled for December 2002 in Qatar.