The joint ministerial council of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the countries of the European Union (EU) ended its tenth session in Brussels yesterday under the co-chairmanship of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gamma, who is also currently the EU President. The communiqué issued after the session stressed the atmosphere of friendship and cordiality that demonstrated the level of good relations between the two economic blocs. It stated that the session had reviewed the progress of agreement on commerce, investment and cooperation, and especially that for setting up a free trade zone in accordance with the report of the relevant committee. The communiqué declared that it was time to begin framing lists of commodities as a step towards removing customs barriers.
Turning to international affairs of mutual interest, the GCC and EU reiterated their desire to develop political dialogue in order to reach solutions for the problems they might confront. The communiqué stressed the need to set up peaceful coexistence among the countries of the Arabian Gulf in accordance with international resolutions, while endorsing the right of all countries to possess the means for legitimate defense provided there are no aggressive intentions. Both sides reaffirmed their adherence to renouncing weapons of mass destruction. On human rights, they stressed adherence to the statement at the recent Vienna conference that human rights are "international and indivisible". On the Middle East peace process, they renewed the call for realization of a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the UN resolutions and the principles of Madrid and Oslo. They welcomed resumption of Syrian-Israeli negotiations and the decision of Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon in accordance with UN resolutions. On Iraq, they stressed the necessity of Iraq's compliance with all security council resolutions, and expressed their concern over the fate of Kuwaiti prisoners, calling on Iraq to cooperate and implement UN Security Council Resolution 687. The two sides expressed regret for not achieving progress in the efforts to resolve the dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, stressing their support for the tripartite committee formed by GCC, and noting that all the parties had renewed their support for a political solution according to international law.
The next meeting of the joint council will be in the Arabian Gulf region some time in 2001.
At the Saudi Embassy in Brussels today, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal signed, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a declaration of joint principles aimed at the establishment of a free trade zone between the two economic blocs. The declaration was signed on behalf of the European Union by Switzerland's Minister of Economic Affairs Pascal Couchepin. Speaking on the occasion, Prince Saud Al-Faisal expressed satisfaction at this step, and hoped it would lead to fruitful cooperation covering all economic and trade sectors as well as the area of investment. He referred to the joint communiqué issued yesterday as clear evidence of strengthened ties and positive development for Gulf-European relations, adding that a number of obstacles that had been blocking negotiations had been resolved during the current session. The most significant of these, he said, was a unified Gulf customs tariff, which was realized at the recent Riyadh GCC Summit.