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GCC, Britain highlight commitment to tackling challenges in Iraq, Syria, Mideast
October 15, 2014, 8:18 am

The six-state Gulf Cooperation Council and Britain re-stressed the importance of enhancing relations and dialogue to address regional challenges like the threat of terrorism and common interests as the foreign ministers of the sides met in Kuwait on Tuesday.

This came in the Fourth GCC-UK Ministerial Meeting for Strategic Dialogue, which was co-chaired by the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and the current chairman of the GCC Ministerial Council Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Philip Hammond.
Also participating were the remaining foreign ministers of the GCC along with its Secretary General Abdullateef Al-Zayani.

The meeting endorsed the GCC-UK Joint Action Plan (2013-18), which provide a roadmap for cooperation in areas of mutual concern, including trade and investment, energy and the environment, political and security cooperation, education and scientific research, culture, tourism, and people to people contacts.

The plan aims to translate the shared strategic vision for relations between the GCC and Britain UK into practical steps that outline the objectives, mechanisms and proposed activities to be implemented in the forthcoming period.

Several regional and international issues were discussed, including counter-terrorism, the political and security challenges across Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya, the Middle East peace process and the Iranian nuclear file.

The ministers strongly condemned as "appalling" the "crimes and atrocities" committed by extremist and terrorist groups and organisations in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

In their final statement of the talks, they emphasised the importance of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2170, which imposes sanctions on individuals with links to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other extremist and terrorist groups.

They praised the outcomes of conferences on terrorism in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Paris, and stressed the importance of comprehensive and effective international action to "degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, and other armed terriorist organisations." This would be carried out by "taking the steps outlined in UNSCR 2178, and preventing the flow of money to terrorist groups."

They recognized the importance of international military and security action to counter this terrorism, while other lines of efforts must include countering terrorist financing and undermining their "twisted ideology" which exploits religion and completely distorts the teachings of Islam, added the statement.

They welcomed a conference, to be held in Bahrain in November, which will focus on combating terrorist financing, to ensure that financial institutions and charitable organisations are not used to channel funds to terrorists or to fund other illegal activities.

They also expressed "deep concern over the failure of peaceful solutions for regional crises," which had created a "hospitable climate" for terrorism.
On Iraq, they welcomed the government's formation there, presided by Haidar Al-Abadi, calling for solidarity among the various components of the society on efforts to defeat terrorism and to protect all affected minorities without discrimination.

They also stressed the need to safeguard the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq as well to strengthen positive interaction and cooperation between Iraq and its GCC neighbours.

On Syria, they reaffirmed their position that Bashar Al-Assad and his regime have "no legitimacy." They also stressed the imperative of "forming a new government that reflects the aspirations of the Syrian people and advances national unity, pluralism and human rights for all." The statement went to justify the decision of the US-led coalition, which includes several Arab nations, to go ahead with airstrikes on ISIL targets within Syria - which was welcomed by the incumbent Syrian regime.

The "Assad regime has shown that it does not possess the will or the capacity to confront terrorist safe havens inside Syrian territory, and therefore international action against terrorist threats in Syria is necessary and justified." The statement reaffirmed commitment to the opposition Syrian National Coalition, and condemned the regime as continuing to commit "atrocities... including murders, airstrikes, shelling and use of barrel bombs to terrorize civilian areas, following its previous criminal employment of chemical weapons."

The ministers also called for the fast implementation of UNSCR 2165, regarding the enabling of immediate and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to people throughout Syria, and called for enhanced support of refugees in neighbouring countries.

On the Middle East process, they welcomed the Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after the 50-day conflict between both.

They encouraged the two sides to continue talks for "a long lasting and sustainable framework that promotes economic growth, including reconstruction, the crossing of products intended for civil use, humanitarian aid to the citizens of Gaza, and avoidance of the use of violence and casualties among civilians."

They also expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the Gaza reconstruction conference held in Cairo two days ago, where international donors made collective financial pledges worth USD 5.4 billion. The contributions of the GCC to this amounted USD 1.9 billion, and were praised as "generous."

They called for the immediate reconvening of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that "will lead to ending" their conflict, and "work towards reaching a peaceful solution based on the two-state principle according to relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative."

They also agreed that Israeli settlements on the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law and undermine the prospects for achieving a comprehensive long-standing peace.

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