EU, GCC agree to expand ties, cooperation

BRUSSELS, 19th July, 2016 (WAM) -- The 25th European Union-Gulf Cooperation Council Ministerial Meeting ended in Brussels on Monday night with a firm determination to expand and strengthen bilateral political, economic, cultural and social cooperation and relations.

"In a challenging regional environment, the EU and GCC Ministers underlined the importance of further strengthening their ties, to serve as a solid and effective foundation for sustainable regional and international stability and security," said a Co-Chairs' statement released after the meeting.

According to the Kuwaiti News Agency, KUNA, the EU and GCC Ministers exchanged views and identified common concerns and priorities with regard to the situation in the region, notably on Yemen, Iran, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Middle East Peace Process.

"They underlined the strategic importance for the EU and the GCC to coordinate closely on these developments. They welcomed in particular the resumption of the UN-mediated Yemen peace talks in Kuwait on 16th July and reiterated their support to the UN Special Envoy for Yemen in facilitating a comprehensive and lasting settlement between Yemeni parties to restore peace and resume the transition in Yemen, in line with the GCC Initiative, the National Dialogue Conference Outcomes, UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and other relevant UNSC Resolutions," the statement read.

Speaking at a press conference last night, EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, said, "We agreed to work together in Kuwait. The EU is represented by our head of delegation at Yemen to work together to help the parties to find common ground. This was one element where convergence was complete between us and among the respective parties. We agreed that there is only a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. We are trying to join forces to facilitate this process. I want to stress the extremely relevant role that Kuwait is playing not only as a generous host but also as a political sensible host," she stressed.

The EU delegation to the meeting was led by Mogherini, and the GCC delegation was led by Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Foreign Minister, as GCC rotating Presidency. The GCC Secretariat was represented by Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashed Al-Zayani, Secretary-General.

Al Jubeir told the joint press conference, "I think the reason that there is a commonality of views is because the consensus in the international community and also among the Yemeni parties is that a political settlement in Yemen has to be based on three basic principles, the GCC initiative, the outcome of the Yemeni national dialogue and the UN Security Council Resolution 2216."

On the issue of terrorism, Mogherini said the EU and the GCC have a mutual interest to work together closely on countering terrorism. "We decided to do so more and more in the coming months and years. We will continue to work together to fight Daesh and other terrorist movements. But also we will work together to prevent radicalisation and find ways to be effective in our fight against terrorism," she said.

Al Jubeir said, "Syria will be judged on what actually happens on the ground, whether the Syrian regime will respect the cease-fire, will it accept humanitarian aid, the Syrian regime will accept a peaceful solution based upon the Geneva Conference and the UN Resolution. These are all real questions. Our support for the moderate opposition will continue and we shall continue to combat Daesh in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East."

The joint statement said the Ministers reviewed progress in the EU-GCC strategic relationship and noted with satisfaction that two-way trade represented more than 155 billion Euros in 2015, an increase of 55 percent since 2010.

The Ministers welcomed cooperation initiatives notably through the EU-GCC dialogues on the economy, air transport, the energy experts group, exchanges on railway transport, trade facilitation, as well as cooperation on economic diversification.

"The Ministers looked forward to expanded EU-GCC relations through increased people-to-people contacts, and further cooperation in the social, economic, educational, cultural and scientific fields, and human rights," said the statement.

EU and GCC Ministers agreed to hold their next meeting in Bahrain in 2017. The six-member GCC groups include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


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