BRUSSELS, 17th July, 2016 (WAM) — Amal Al-Hamad, Ambassador of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, to the European Union, EU, said on Sunday that the next GCC-EU Ministerial Meeting in Brussels on Monday will help bolster ties between the two prominent regional bodies.

In an interview with the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, she said that the meeting will contribute to the promotion and exchange of views and consultation on ways to reach political and diplomatic solutions to put an end to wars, destruction and bloodshed and the displacement of millions of citizens.

She noted that the foreign ministers of the 6-member GCC and the 28-member EU sides will discuss many issues of common interests, including the situation in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the peace process in the Middle East, Iran, and the fight against terrorism.

She pointed out that the GCC has played an important and active political role, in coordination and cooperation with the EU countries, to find a political solution for example to the crisis in Syria through the “Group of Friends of the Syrian people,” as the two sides made a huge humanitarian aid to help the Syrian people, where humanitarian and financial assistance to the Syrian people provided by the GCC countries reached to about USD 3 billion.

Al-Hamad pointed out the cooperation between the two regional blocs to resolve the crisis in Yemen through the establishment of the “Friends of Yemen” group in 2010 to provide political, financial and international support and to help all parties, and through consultations between the Yemeni parties held in Kuwait, which resumed on Saturday.

She stressed that the EU is an important trade partner of the GCC, where the trade exchange between the two groups amounted to about US$180 billion in 2015.

The GCC is currently ranked the fourth largest trading market of the European Union. Joint cooperation agreement between the EU and GCC entered into force in 1988. Under this agreement, the two sides hold annual ministerial meetings, as well as Joint Cooperation Committee and political dialogue meetings, technical meetings that bring relevant experts from both sides of the various fields.

She said EU-GCC cooperation includes broad areas such as trade, industry and investment, particularly in the framework of joint workshops in this area and the project of the Gulf-Europe to facilitate business and trade cooperation.

She stressed that cooperation between the two sides has witnessed a quantum leap in this area with the first forum between businessmen of the two sides held in Brussels in May, 2016.

In parallel, the two sides signed an agreement in 2011 for the establishment of diplomatic programme, where five groups from the GCC General Secretariat joined the programme of the European external service, EEAS.

Al-Hamad said at a time when the two sides were able to achieve many of the achievements and relations have seen positive developments and have contributed to the promotion of cooperation at all levels and in building bridges between the two regions, “but it has not been up to the strategic relationship level that we aspire.”

She urged the intensification of efforts to achieve a qualitative surge in the joint EU-GCC cooperation, and through the expansion of work and deepen cooperation on the level of experts.

“This expansion is based on common interests in the light of the current common challenges, taking advantage of opportunities and possibilities available to us,” added the GCC ambassador.

The GCC side at Monday’s meeting will be led by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, whose country chairs the current GCC Presidency, and the EU side by High Representative Federica Mogherini.

WAM/AAMIR/Moran