Gulf wants Israel out of W. Bank

JEDDAH (AFP) — Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers called Wednesday for Israel to withdraw completely from the occupied West Bank and for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
A statement issued after a meeting Tuesday of the GCC’s top diplomats also called for better relations with Iran and for resolution of a long-standing territorial dispute over three islands claimed by Abu Dhabi and occupied by Iran.

The statement was adopted by the foreign ministers of the six GCC members — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It said they “hope the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip will be followed by other initiatives for a complete withdrawal from all the occupied Palestinian territories so that the Palestinian people can establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Late last month, Israel uprooted the residents of the 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank, and its troops are expected to withdraw from Gaza by the middle of September.

However, the West Bank remains pocked by Jewish settlements in which some 250,000 settlers continue to live, excluding occupied East Jerusalem. “The establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East can only come about with the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” the statement said, reiterating GCC support for an Arab peace plan. In 2002, the Arab League offered peace with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from all occupied Arab territory.

The GCC ministers called on the so-called Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations to revitalise the latest peace roadmap, which was unveiled in 2003 but has made virtually no progress.

Turning to the broader region, they also called for a Middle East “free of weapons of mass destruction.”

That was an implicit reference to Iran, which denies US accusations that its atomic energy programme is a cover for secretly developing nuclear weapons, and to encourage Israel to place its unacknowledged nuclear arsenal under international supervision.

The result would be to create the “fundamental conditions for any future [regional] security arrangement.”

Turning to Iran, the ministers said they hoped for a “positive development” in relations with their neighbour across the Gulf based on the principles of “neighbourliness… and of non-interference in the affairs of the other” following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. They await “measures to strengthen confidence,” while they also “deplore” lack of progress on the territorial dispute, and called on Iran to “join in efforts by the Emirates and the international community to resolve the affair through direct negotiations or recourse” to the International Court of Justice.

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