The interior ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) concluded their twentieth conference in Manama, Bahrain today with a statement by Bahraini Interior Minister Shaikh Muhammad bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa confirming the unanimity of the participants' viewpoints, notably in the condemnation of all forms of terrorism, support of the worldwide endeavor to combat it, and agreement on the steps that need to be taken in the current situation.
Reading the meeting's joint communiqué, GCC Secretary-General Jameel bin Ibrahim Al-Hujailan reported that the ministers had reviewed the critical circumstances the world has witnessed following the grave terrorist acts committed in the United States on September 11, and discussed the repercussions and security impacts of this event on the Gulf region and the international community as a whole. He said the ministers stressed the firm stand of their countries as regards the condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and for whatever reasons terrorists justify their actions, for these actions contradict all divine religions and human ethics and values. The communiqué expressed support for the international endeavor to combat terrorism, cut off its sources of finance, and address its motivations, while taking into consideration the safety of those who are innocent; but urged that a distinction be made between terrorism and the right of legal struggle to expel foreign occupiers. The ministers agreed on taking the appropriate steps, enhancing precautionary measures, and developing the legislative and security mechanisms to confront terrorism and guarantee the protection of the GCC states and their peoples from the dangers of terrorism.
Denouncing the media campaign against Saudi Arabia that continues in spite of the Kingdom's stated position regarding terrorism and the terrorist attacks against the United States, the communiqué approved a unified strategy for the GCC member states that focuses on cooperation and exchange of information. The ministers set up an ad hoc committee to study a paper presented by the host country, Bahrain, on ways of combating terrorism, and endorsed guidelines to combat money laundering, noting the importance of coordination with international efforts in this field.
The ministers passed a number of resolutions, including, in order to facilitate movement of GCC nationals and the flow of goods among the GCC states, the restriction of procedures to stamping the passport only at entry, canceling the exit process; and granting national trucks carrying goods from any of the GCC member states entry visas at the border without need for a sponsor or local agent. They also resolved to promote joint training for security personnel; approved the Riyadh Declaration regarding unified regulations on alternatives to imprisonment in GCC states; and agreed on a unified media awareness plan for civil defense.
At a press conference following the meeting, Minister of Interior Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz announced that the magnetic passport system for GCC citizens would be inaugurated this month, a step that will greatly ease entry and exit movement. To a question on whether Saudi Arabia would participate in the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) conference in Doha in which Israel will be taking part, Prince Nayef declared that the Kingdom adheres to its stated positions, and this includes its desire to seek accession to the WTO.
On the unified strategy for combating terrorism, Prince Nayef commented that an objective and rational confrontation of terrorism must address its motivations, declaring that the GCC states will not harbor terrorists, and that terrorism is totally rejected because it is not the proper means for protecting one's rights. "People of every nation or state," he said, "can demand and protect their rights through legal avenues even if these can entail violent confrontations such as is the case in Palestine." He added that the Palestinian struggle is not an aspect of terrorism, but a legitimate course of action that receives the support of all Arab countries.
Prince Nayef observed that the hostile western media campaign against the Kingdom does not reflect the official positions of western governments, adding that statements made by certain members of the U.S. congress are far from the truth, and to be rejected. He confirmed, however, that the Kingdom is not providing material support to the attack on Afghanistan.