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GCC annual summit opens with Gaza issue high on agenda
30/12/2008 12:39

Israeli raids on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and preparation for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo are high on the agenda of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting scheduled later yesterday.

Leaders of the six GCC members will convene at the 29th annual summit in the Omani capital of Muscat to discuss core regional security issues and economic integration among the bloc, which groups six Gulf Arab states --Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.

According to sources familiar with the Omani officials, the six leaders will discuss Israel's intensive strikes on the Gaza Strip,in order to reach a vision that could contribute to helping the Arab action which seeks to stop Israeli military operation.

Israel has been carrying out unprecedented intensive airstrikes since Saturday noon on Hamas movement targets in Gaza, killing 310 Palestinians till now, most of them militants and wounding over 900 people.

The preparation for the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers due to be held in Cairo on Wednesday is another top topic of the meeting.

Yesterday afternoon, foreign ministers of GCC member countries held a closed-door meeting in preparation for the annual summit.

Following the meeting, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah said they will reach a vision that could contribute to a common the Arab action to end Israeli raids, which will be presented at the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

The Omani official also called on the Palestinian brothers to put aside their differences so that "the Arab countries could help them and stand with them to celebrate the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In a statement released on Saturday, GCC Secretary General Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah also urged the international community " immediately move to put an end to the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip."

The statement said that GCC member states support the Palestinian people to regain their rights.

Besides the two topics which are not scheduled in the agenda, the Gulf leaders will thrash out an array of issues, chiefly the situation in the war-torn Iraq, Lebanon-Syria relations, and fighting against piracy off the Somali coast near Yemen.

The leaders will also discuss the impact of global economic downturn on the economies of the oil-rich GCC countries that pump about 16 million barrels of crude oil per day and possess about 45 percent of the world's proven crude reserves.

Meanwhile, they are widely expected to announce a final roadmap for the Gulf monetary union, which involves the framework of a unified Gulf monetary authority and the single currency.