EU,GCC hope to sign FTA by year-end

MANAMA — The 15th EU-GCC ministerial meeting concluded here yesterday with a high note of optimism as both sides expressed a strong confidence in signing a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the end of this year. This makes it the first such accord to be signed globally between the two blocs.

By From Our Correspondent

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Published: Wed 6 Apr 2005, 11:06 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:58 PM

With dedicated seriousness brimming from both sides, the EU and the GCC will hold a meeting in June this year in Brussels, to resolve certain issues that are relevant and need to be resolved before reaching the signing of the accord, which, according to officials, will benefit both sides tremendously in many ways.

On the issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the GCC and the EU also confirmed their shared position that they ''would not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties and that declared views on the possible shape of a final settlement could pre-empt the negotiation of the settlement.''

Addressing the Press conference at the end of the one-day meeting in the presence of European Commission (EC) commissioner External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EC Commissioner for Trade, Peter Mandelson, Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Luxembourg and President of the Council of the EU, Jean Asselborn and GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman Al Attiya, Bahrain's Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and President of the Ministerial Council of the GCC, Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, noted that both sides also discussed a number of other issues of common interest such as Iraq, Iran, cooperation in combating terrorism as well as human rights and the latest development in the Middle East peace process.

We agreed to have a common and a firm stand on continuing in the fight against terrorism at national and international levels, he said.

Giving a broader view of the cooperation, Ferrero-Waldner underlined that ''trade pact is one element but we are not looking at only the economic side,'' adding that both sides rather look at a much broader and comprehensive perspective through this alliance.

Mandelson agreed that signing of the FTA between the two Blocs is ''ambitious and challenging'' but if we succeed in accomplishing it, it will be a unique achievement.

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