Middle East Online | 10 June 2008
GCC rejects strings to EU free trade deal
Gulf Cooperation Council says will not accept any political conditions by EU to sign economic deal.
RIYADH — The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Tuesday it would not accept any political conditions by the European Union to the signing of a free trade agreement, being discussed for 20 years.
It added that it would wait to hear the EU’s final position on the issue which was expected during a planned visit by the Europeans in July.
"The GCC countries reject the imposition of conditions and political demands by the European side in order to sign an economic agreement," GCC secretary general Abdulraham al-Attiyah said.
He added that GCC foreign ministers who met on Monday in Saudi Arabia had agreed to wait for the EU’s final say.
"Foreign ministers have decided not to take a decision before receiving the final European position during a planned visit by a European Commission delegation in July" to the GCC headquarters in Riyadh, he said.
Attiyah said that the EU has promised during a joint meeting in Brussels on May 26 to finalise the agreement by the end of this year.
The GCC — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — has been in talks with the now 27-member EU about a free trade agreement since 1988.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in April during a visit to Doha that the question of human rights was one of the points in a free trade agreement being negotiated with Gulf Arab states.