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GCC Secretary General Heads to Europe to Improve Ties

The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council left for Brussels on Sunday for talks with members of the European Union to explore ways to improve relations between the six GCC nations and the European Union.

Accepts Invitation

Secretary General Abdulatif Al-Zayani is visiting Brussels in response to an invitation by the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton. The invitation is part of an earlier agreement forged between the EU and the GCCdesigned to increase cooperation between the two bodies.

Catherine Ashton

“Al-Zayani, who will be traveling with top GCC officials including Saad Al-Ammar, the GCC’s deputy secretary-general for political affairs, will hold bilateral talks with Ashton on Jan. 31,” said Saleem S. A. Al-Alwi, GCC spokesman.

Iran on the Table

Also on the agenda of talks will be the latest threat from Iran. This threat is a consequence of the EU’s decision last week to enforce an oil embargo on Iran beginning this coming summer if Iran does not disclose information about its hidden nuclear program. The west is worried that Iran is developing nuclear weapons under the radar of the West’s ability to monitor and halt, if necessary the Iranian nuclear program. “Hence, the visit of Al-Zayani to Brussels, where he will also hold talks with Belgian officials besides meeting several EU officials, has added significance,” said a political analyst. He also said that the EU and the GCC will most likely also discuss inaugurating negotiations to hammer out a free trade agreement.

“Both sides still look committed to negotiations toward a free trade agreement which were initiated in 1990 and gained momentum in 2007, but later failed,” he added.

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