03 March, 2003
Developments in Iraq and the Middle East and the strengthening of bilateral economic cooperation with regard to petroleum products, aluminium and natural gas were the focus of talks between the Gulf Cooperation Council and an EU delegation led by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou in Doha, Qatar.
“There is a window of opportunity to avoid war if Saddam Hussein makes a dramatic gesture of full compliance and disarmament,” Papandreou stressed at the end of the 13th EU-GCC joint ministerial meeting.
At a joint press conference with the President of the GCC, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jaber Al Thani, Papandreou underlined the EU’s common stance that Iraq should fully disarm.
During the meeting, the two sides examined ways in which the EU and Arabs can cooperate on the Iraqi issue, as well as to confront possible problems that may arise in the aftermath of a war.
“It is vitally important to send a clear message to Saddam Hussein that he must fully comply”, Papandreou said, calling for coordination of efforts between the EU and the Arab world in order to find a peaceful solution.
“In the EU we are all united in purpose, we all prefer a peaceful solution. There are some differences concerning the approach, the process, but there is very strong unity regarding the desire to exhaust all peaceful means,” Papandreou underlined, adding that the EU was in constant contact with the countries of the region.
“We are working day by day to find a peaceful solution. We all support the UN Security Council resolution” the Qatari Foreign Minister said. He stressed that oil should not be used as a political weapon and expressed hope that a peaceful solution can be found.
The two sides also discussed EU-GCC economic cooperation with regard to petroleum products, aluminum and natural gas. Papandreou said the EU had the political will to make the Free Trade Zone a reality. Such an agreement will be beneficial for both sides, Papandreou said, noting however that further progress must be made and negotiations continued during 2003.
The Qatari Foreign Minister said constant efforts were being made for the avoidance of double taxation and he expressed the hope that the agreement on the Free Trade Zone would be signed in the near future.