Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Sheikh Jamil Bin Ibrahim Al-Hujeilan today read a joint communiqué issued at the end of the 20th session of the GCC Supreme Council held in Riyadh from November 27 to 29, 1999 on the invitation of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, who presided over the meeting. Also participating were the Emir of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa; the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah; the Ruler of Oman Sultan Qaboos; the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani; and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.
The communiqué confirmed the Supreme Council's sincere desire to enhance the progress of the GCC to cope with regional and international changes and realize its aspirations and noble objectives. The Supreme Council evaluated the latest economical, political and security developments at Arab, regional and international levels and underscored the importance of continuing work to further enhance security, stability and development in the GCC countries.
Reviewing the progress of joint economic cooperation and in particular the steps taken to establish a Customs Union for the GCC member states, including the stage reached in unifying customs tariffs, the Council resolved that the GCC Customs Union would take effect on the first day of March, 2005. Meanwhile, member states would each amend current customs tariffs, either gradually or all at once, to be set at 5.5 percent for basic and exempted commodities and 7.5 for other, luxury items, in accordance with the classification of goods as exempted commodities, basic commodities, and others. The GCC financial and economical cooperation committee is assigned to finalize all the steps and measures pending to facilitate commencement of operations of the Customs Union. In order to fulfil the unification of other economic systems among the GCC member states, and complete the necessary steps to set up a GCC Customs Union, the Council approved a unified statute of legislation on customs. This will be put into effect as a guideline for one year, and subject to revision by the member states. After this one-year experience, it can be effected and made binding for all GCC member states by the end of 2000.
The Council approved amendments to the provisions identifying national origin in the unified economic agreement, rationalizing the added value rate for industrial products, and eliminating the condition of national ownership of the producer. The Council also decided to amend regulations covering ownership by GCC citizens of real estate of all kinds, including residential and investment properties, in other member states; praised Bahrain's decision to allow GCC citizens or artificial persons to own in the State of Bahrain, real estate and land for all kinds of residential and investment projects; and approved the GCC patent system's compliance with the agreement on intellectual property ownership rights.
The Council endorsed the contract for setting up the GCC electric power grid, its basic statute, and the announcement of the formation of the public stock company with headquarters in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as paving the way for the implementation of phase one of this project.
Regarding the unified economic agreement as a whole, the Council assigned the economic and financial committee to review it for the purpose of guaranteeing enhancement of the productive structure of the GCC member states, promoting the role of the private sector, and realizing the joint interests of the citizens of the GCC states. The committee was also assigned to forge a long-term strategy to serve as a framework for Gulf relations and negotiations with all countries, regional blocs, and international organizations.
Reviewing the situation of the global oil market, the Council expressed satisfaction at the latest developments and confirmed the continuing and constant concern of the GCC to exert all possible efforts to guarantee its stability in a way that preserves the interests of both consumers and producers. Being aware that oil, the world's main source of energy, constitutes the backbone of its member states, the Council resolved to maintain a unified position towards the oil market, to guarantee the balance of supply and demand and cope with unexpected emergencies that might cause confusion in the market and negatively affect the interests of both oil producers and consumers.
As for human and environmental affairs, the Council instructed the ministries of education in the member states to take all the necessary steps and measures leading to the development of their curricula. The Council also gave instruction for an effective mechanism for coordination among the ministries and authorities concerned at the national level of each country to take appropriate measures to deal with medical and radioactive wastes, and to guarantee safe transport of hazardous materials across their borders. The Council approved regulations facilitating the availability in all GCC states of the efforts of other member states to register the drugs and medications produced in each country; and endorsed acceptance of equivalent certificates and documents concerning medical treatment and pharmaceutical prescriptions.
With regard to ease of movement of GCC manpower among the member states, the Council approved the suggestions presented by the consultative commission, which was assigned to evaluate the progress of GCC economic cooperation and submit a report to the Council's next Summit. The Council also assigned the commission to create a booklet of guidelines on additional goals, mechanisms, programs and measures to increase the effectiveness of the implementation of the long-range comprehensive development strategy (2000 - 2025) approved by the last summit. The aim of this was to provide the strategy with more aspects of competitiveness in view of the accelerating economic changes of today and potential challenges of tomorrow.
On military matters, the Council endorsed the recommendations forwarded by the GCC defense ministers regarding the development and follow-up of military cooperation affairs with regard to the Al-Jazeerah Shield, the security cooperation zone project, secure communications, the defense policy and the GCC member states' air forces. The council expressed satisfaction at the continuing implementation of all the military cooperation programs.
On security affairs, the Council approved the decisions taken by the interior ministers at their recent meeting in Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates regarding facilitation of the movement of GCC citizens among member states and the issuance of computerized passports. The Council also endorsed the step taken by Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE to allow their citizens move freely within their countries with an ID card only, saying this is an important step in the joint cooperation of the region.
The Council confirmed the importance of completing measures regarding protecting both the land and maritime environment from pollution; and welcomed the decision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to combat international terrorism. Following a briefing on the recent 10th meeting of information ministers in Al-Ain, the Council approved recommendations aimed at enhancing joint operations, and underscored the importance of following up implementation of decisions and of modernizing the Gulf media to comply with international information developments. The Council also endorsed the agreement on diplomatic and consular cooperation signed between Qatar and Oman on May 18, 1998.
Concerning Iraq, the Council reviewed developments with regard to implementation by the Iraqi regime of the United Nations Security Council resolutions pertaining to its aggression against Kuwait, noting that in spite of over nine years of sanctions, it is still procrastinating in full implementation of these resolutions. The Council holds the Iraqi government responsible for the suffering of the sisterly people of Iraq on account of the sanctions and regrets the Iraqi regime's refusal to cooperate with the international community and comply with its decisions. To this effect, the Council reiterates its appeal to the Iraqi government to expedite a strict response to Arab and international calls, urging adherence to implementation of all UN decisions, particularly with regard to the international committee assigned to work for the release of prisoners of war and other detainees, from Kuwait and from other countries; the return of Kuwaiti property; and an end to any provocative act or aggressive operation against Kuwait or any neighboring country. Iraq should verify its good intentions towards its neighbors in word and spirit, and admit that its invasion against Kuwait was a violation of Arab as well as international law. The Council welcomed any initiative to alleviate the sufferings of the Iraqi people, and called for the creation of a mechanism to guarantee the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and the continuation of the flow of relief to the Iraqi people. The Council called for the preservation of Iraq's independence, the integrity of its territories, and its security in the region.
As for relations with Iran, the Council reviewed the work of the tripartite committee assigned to create a mechanism to launch direct negotiations between Iran and the UAE on the issue of the three islands. The Council instructed that the committee proceed with its endeavors to pave the way for creating such a mechanism.
Turning to the Middle East, the Council reviewed the latest developments of the peace process and welcomed the Sharm Al-Sheikh Agreement of September 9 between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel as a positive step in the right direction. The council reiterated its support of the Madrid Conference, and the principle of land for peace; for resumption of negotiations on all tracks in accordance with UN resolutions 242, 338 and 425; and for the Palestinian people to enjoy all their inalienable rights, including that of establishing an independent state on their own territory with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital. The Council reaffirmed its absolute rejection of any attempt by the Israeli government to alter the demographic structure of Al-Quds, considering this a flagrant violation of international resolutions, and reiterated its belief that comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East cannot be realized until Israel has completely withdrawn from all the occupied Arab territories including the Golan Heights to the June 1967 line, southern Lebanon, and western Bakaa. The Council urges Israel to implement the agreements it concluded with the Arab parties and calls on the co-sponsors of peace to exercise pressure on Tel Aviv to comply with the UN resolutions.
The Council reiterated its appeal to the international community to make the Middle East, including the Gulf region, a zone free of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction; reviewed the developments in the Damascus Declaration countries, anticipating that organization's next meeting; and expressed concern at the tragic situation in Chechnya, calling on all parties, in particular Russia, to exercise self-control and resort to a peaceful solution to the problem.
In conclusion, the Council expressed thanks to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi people, for their warm hospitality.