The foreign ministers of the member states of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) today welcomed visiting U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during their 64th conference which is being held at Abha. In his keynote address, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Ibn Jabr Al-Thani referred to her visit to the region as an expression of U.S. commitment to the peace process and substantiation of its role as a partner and sponsor of this process, and expressed hope that the visit would contribute to restoring the peace process to its correct track, attributing its current suspension to the policies and practices of the Israeli government which demonstrate flagrant violations of the principles agreed upon in Madrid, particularly the land-for-peace formula.
For her part, Secretary Albright, thanking Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz, the Saudi government, and Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, for arranging the meeting, assured the ministers that U.S. President Bill Clinton attaches great importance to the relations of friendship which link the GCC and the United States. She reaffirmed that the U.S., believing that nations have a responsibility towards observation of law in their relations with each other, strongly condemns extremism and totally rejects terrorism. She went on to say that peace is the only option in the Middle East, although the way to peace seems to be difficult and sometimes brings sorrow and pain to Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs alike. Secretary Albright called on all parties to shoulder their responsibilities, suggesting that the Palestinian Authority do its best to prevent terrorism and to punish the culprits, while the Israelis halt unilateral actions that undermine Palestinian confidence in their intentions, and declaring that the United States is committed to supporting a comprehensive peace in conformity with the principles stipulated in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
Referring to the strong economic ties between the U.S. and the GCC, and calling for support of regional economic cooperation, she expressed the hope that all GCC member states would participate in the Middle East and North Africa economic summit to be held in Qatar later this year, stressing that common success and prosperity will establish a common commitment to peace. As for any interference in the freedom of navigation in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf, Secretary Albright assured the GCC ministers that the U.S. is determined not to allow Iraq to resume its threats, and stated that the election of Muhammad Khatami as the new President in Iran may well indicate a positive change in Iran.
Following the meeting, which she described as cordial and constructive, Secretary Albright reaffirmed the depth of the relations between the United States and the GCC countries, and drew attention to the fact that all the participants agreed something had to be done to solve the problem of the current loss of confidence in the peace process, and all must work to create an appropriate atmosphere to regain it.