1998 Public Statement

Damascus Declaration conference issues communiqué
The foreign ministers of the member states of the Damascus Declaration concluded their 16th conference in Doha today, and issued the following communiqué.

The foreign ministers of the member states of the Damascus Declaration called for adherence to and efforts in accordance with, the contents of the final communiqué of the Arab Summit held in the Arab Republic of Egypt in June, 1996, particularly the decisions approved unanimously by the Arab leaders. These were: to further enhance Arab solidarity; and to establish a just and comprehensive peace serving the vital interests of the Arab world, restoring its usurped territories and rights, and following up with effective Arab action. The foreign ministers reiterated the stance of their respective countries that fair and comprehensive peace necessitates the restoration of all occupied Arab territories in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, in particular numbers 242, 338 and 425, which call for Israel to withdraw completely from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights to the line of June 4, 1997; and from southern Lebanon including the western Baka'a; and from the occupied Palestinian territories, including Arab Jerusalem; and to guarantee to the Palestinian people their legitimate rights, including those of returning home, self-determination and establishment of their independent state with the Holy Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital.

The ministers underlined their absolute rejection and denunciation of the expansionist settlement policies of Israel in the occupied territories as well as the Israeli government's decision to expand the geographical frontiers of Holy Al-Quds [Jerusalem] and to change its demographic structure, describing this as flagrant violation of international law as well as the Madrid Accord and all the relevant UN security council and general assembly resolutions. They confirmed the importance of adhering to UN resolutions, denied acceptance of any situation resulting from the Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Arab territories, and demanded that all such activities in Jordan and Palestine cease, particularly in Al-Quds [Jerusalem], and that these settlements be eliminated. The ministers expressed deep concern over Israel's attempts related to imposing conditions on the implementation of UN Resolution 425 concerning Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, and underscored the importance of continuing the Middle East peace process based on the UN resolutions and the principle of land for peace. In this regard, the ministers expressed firm support for the Palestinian people and called on Israel to adhere to the articles of the agreement it has concluded with the Palestinians.
The ministers praised the efforts of the United States of America in helping bring about the recent Wye Memorandum between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and urged the U.S. administration to force the Israeli government to live up to its commitments. They underscored the importance of resumption of negotiations on both the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, and called on the co-sponsors of the peace process, particularly the United States and the European Union, to take effective measures to activate the Middle East peace process and restore it to its correct track according to Madrid and the UN resolutions.
The ministers underscored the importance of keeping the Middle East, including the Gulf region, free of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, and of Israel joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation nuclear Treaty and accepting the guarantees prescribed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. They urged Iraq to revoke its decision to halt cooperation with UNSCOM, and confirmed that the Iraqi government should be held responsible for any repercussions affecting the Iraqi people.
The ministers noted that Iran continues its "unacceptable claims" of sovereignty over the three UAE islands and is carrying out measures to further consolidate its occupation of the islands. They reiterated their call to the Iranian government to respond to the appeal of the United Arab emirates, the GCC member states, the countries of the Damascus Declaration, and a number of other international and regional organizations, to resort to a peaceful solution in keeping with the recent positive orientation of the Government of [Iranian] President Mohammed Khatami in building confidence with neighbors and developing cooperation in order to enhance stability and security in the Gulf region.
In this regard, the ministers confirmed the right of the UAE to sovereignty over the islands of Greater Tunbs, Lesser Tunbs, and Abu-Musa, and their support for any peaceful measures it might resort to for this purpose. They urged Iran to desist from its policy of status quo in the disputed islands, and confirmed that the security of the UAE is an integral part of the security of the member states of the Damascus Declaration. Nevertheless, they expressed satisfaction at the recent orientation of policies of the Iranian government, considering them an important element for stability in the region. In this regard, they expressed readiness to build positive relations with Tehran based on reciprocal respect, good neighborliness, and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, as well as rejection of the use of force, threats or blackmail to solve problems.
The ministers called for a solution of the Lockerbie issue, in order to pave the way for lifting the embargo on Libya. They expressed rejection of all forms of terrorism and violence, and called for countries not to provide havens for terrorist elements, regretting that a number of countries friendly to the Damascus Declaration member states were doing this. They stated that combating terrorism should be a concerted, international action. In this regard, they supported the proposal presented by [Egyptian] President Hosni Mubarak to convene an international conference to combat terrorism under the umbrella of the United Nations. They also underscored the importance of cooperation amongst themselves to fight extremism, violence, terrorism and stand side by side to face such phenomena.
In conclusion, the ministers called on an expert panel to proceed with its study to establish a common Arab market, which was begun in Cairo in December of 1997.