The leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) concluded their 26th summit in Abu Dhabi today. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz headed the Saudi delegation to the summit, which was named the “King Fahd Summit.”
In its final communiqué, the GCC Supreme Council lauded the outcomes of the third extraordinary Organization of the Islamic Conference summit held recently in Makkah, as well as the resulting Makkah Declaration.
The Supreme Council expressed satisfaction with the results achieved at the Second Summit of the South (Group of 77 plus China) held in June in Doha, Qatar.
The Council reviewed member countries’ achievements in economic, political, education, and social development. It stressed the importance of continued comprehensive modernization and development in today’s world in order to maintain security, stability and prosperity for GCC countries and peoples, while preserving their national identity, heritage and history.
It also reviewed cooperation in all fields since its last session and gave a comprehensive evaluation of political and security issues, both regional and international.
The Council issued several decisions.
On economic issues, it approved a unified trade policy document that aims to unify GCC countries’ trade policies and enable them to present themselves as a single economic unit. It also adopted a policy facilitating the movement of goods, services, citizens and transportation among member countries, taking into consideration environmental issues and consumer protection.
The interim period for the customs union was extended through the end of 2007. The Council agreed to exempt a number of goods from tariffs and to allow GCC citizens to conduct commercial activities in all member states, particularly in the areas of stock ownership and trading.
The communiqué also called for a quick completion of the requirements for establishing a GCC common market by the end of 2007, and approved standards for the establishment of a GCC monetary union.
It considered a number of studies dealing with enhanced links between member nations in the areas of water, railway, an identification card, and measures to prevent the avian flu. The council also said that it would finance development projects in Yemen and look into convening a conference to boost investment in that country.
The communiqué welcomed the outcome of negotiations with the European Union, and expressed the hope that they would lead to a free trade agreement soon. It also welcomed progress in negotiations over free trade zones with China and Turkey.
Turning to terrorism-related issues, the communiqué welcomed the results of the Counter-terrorism International Conference hosted by Saudi Arabia in February 2005, and called for the establishment of an international counterterrorism center as proposed by King Abdullah.
On military cooperation, the Council approved the decisions reached by GCC defense ministers and reviewed a letter by King Abdullah to develop a joint force, opting to refer that issue to the next summit.
The Council praised GCC interior ministers’ decision to sign an agreement for the extradition of those convicted of deprivation of liberty.
The communiqué lauded cooperation and coordination between member states in drug-trafficking issues. It also adopted guidelines for controlling materials that lead to the depletion of ozone, and instructed GCC education ministers to accelerate implementing joint projects relating to the development in educational systems.
On international issues, the communiqué welcomed the recent elections in Iraq, characterizing them as a new beginning for the country and a guarantee for its unity and stability that will allow Iraq to resume its active role in the Arab and international arenas. It reaffirmed GCC support for Iraq’s reconstruction.
The Council stated that a comprehensive, just peace in the Middle East would not be possible without the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It also called on the international community to pressure Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allow its nuclear facilities to be inspected. It also urged Israel to withdraw from the Syrian Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms in Lebanon.
On Lebanon, the GCC strongly condemned the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri and the ongoing assassinations there, and called on the Lebanese people to remain united. The Council expressed satisfaction with Syrian cooperation with an international investigation committee into Hariri’s killing.
Finally, the communiqué said it was not content with the inability to make any kind of progress with Iran over its occupation of three islands claimed by the United Arab Emirates – Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Mousa – and called for a peaceful resolution of the issue.