First Joint Ministerial Meeting on GCC-Australia Strategic Dialogue

Communique

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

8 March 2011

The First Joint Ministerial Meeting on Strategic Dialogue between the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and Australia was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on 8 March 2011. The GCC was represented by His Highness Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the current session of the GCC Ministerial Council; His Excellency Dr. Nizar Madani, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, President of the next session of the GCC Ministerial Council; and His Excellency Abdulrahman Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, GCC Secretary General. Australia was represented by the Honorable Mr. Kevin Rudd, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Australia and the GCC welcomed the growth in relations and cooperation in the political, economic, education and other fields. The two sides shared important and growing economic and strategic interests and people to people links, reinforced by hundreds of thousands of Australians of Arab descent who have made an important contribution to Australian society, tens of thousands of Australians living in GCC countries, and thousands of GCC nationals studying in Australia.

The two sides agreed that GCC-Australia Strategic Dialogue constituted an important step forward to forge a comprehensive partnership for progress, peace and development and realize the shared aspirations of their peoples. They welcomed the holding of the first GCC-Australia Ministerial Meeting on Strategic Dialogue in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in which they signed the Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a mechanism for this dialogue.

Under the terms of the MoU, the two sides agreed to hold annual meetings at Foreign Minister level to be held on alternating basis between the two sides. The MoU reaffirms the two sides’ desire to enhance and develop existing friendly relations in all fields, hold consultations over regional and international issues of mutual concern, and establish an effective mechanism for mutually beneficial cooperation in a wide range of areas including trade and investment, banking and finance, agriculture, education and scientific research.

The two sides welcomed the growing trade and strengthening of business and investment links between them. To build on this momentum, they expressed determination to conclude the Free Trade negotiations between Australia and the GCC, and hold the fifth round of negotiations as soon as possible.

The GCC countries expressed their sympathy to the Government and people of Queensland for the recent natural disasters to affect that state. They expressed their willingness to support practical measures to show solidarity with Queensland. To this end, Australia and the GCC agreed to engage with their business representatives and organisations to encourage a major business mission from GCC countries to visit Queensland in 2011, with the aim of expanding trade and investment links for mutual benefit.

Regional and international issues:

1. The two sides discussed the ongoing events in the region. They expressed the hope that parties would reject all forms of violence in order to ensure national unity, territorial integrity and the preservation of national accord, as well as refraining from divisiveness and dispute. The two sides hoped that parties would adopt the language of dialogue and wisdom in support of efforts at reform and development aimed at fulfilling the aspirations of the people, and at the same time ensuring their safety and security.

2. The two sides valued the reform initiative of His Majesty King of Bahrain aimed at reinforcing state institutions, rule of law, and dialogue, led by H.H. the Crown Prince, with all parties without exceptions.

3. The two sides condemned the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by Libyan authorities through the use of heavy weapons and live ammunition, which have resulted in large numbers of deaths among innocent civilians. They called upon the Libyan authorities to immediately stop the use of force against civilians and facilitate humanitarian assistance.

The two sides expressed their support for UNSC resolution 1970 dated 26 February 2011, Human Rights Council resolution dated 25 February 2011, and the Arab League Resolution 7298 dated 2 March 2011 on Libya. The two sides called upon the Security Council to impose a no fly zone on Libya in order to protect civilians.

4. The two sides stressed the importance of preservation of Iraq's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. They expressed their hope that the government-formation process would produce an effective government that was representative of all Iraq's ethnic and religious diversity, at peace, and on friendly terms with all regional countries. The two sides underscored the importance of implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions by Iraq relating to the identification of Kuwaiti prisoners and missing Kuwaitis and other nationals, return of Kuwaiti property and national archives to Kuwait, and maintenance of Kuwait-Iraq border signs. In this connection, they welcomed the recent high-level exchanges between Kuwait and Iraq, including visits to Kuwait by Iraq's President and Prime Minister, as helpful to this process.

5. The two sides expressed their strong support for efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace in the Middle East allowing both Israel and a future viable independent Palestinian state, to live side by side in peace and security. They urged both sides to seize the opportunity for peace as a matter of urgency through direct talks, with the goal of reaching agreement on final status issues, and to refrain from any actions, including settlement activity in the Palestinian Territories, which undermine trust and the climate for negotiations.

They commended the important contribution of the Arab Peace Initiative to these efforts. They commended the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to develop the capacity and institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state.

They reaffirmed the practical support of efforts to build Palestinian institutions and capacity, and welcomed the significant increase in Australia’s assistance to the Palestinian people.

6. The two sides affirmed their adherence to international law and the peaceful settlement of disputes and support for the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and WMDs in the Middle East, including the Gulf area. The two sides welcomed the international efforts aimed at the peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear file. They reaffirmed the right of every country in the region to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in accordance with relevant international agreements, IAEA standards and under its supervision.

7. The two sides reiterated their full support for enhanced security, stability and national unity in Lebanon.

8. The two sides stressed the importance of preserving the unity, security and stability of Yemen and non-interference in its internal affairs and agreed to work together to help Yemen face the challenges it encounters. They welcomed the convening of the Ministerial Meeting for Friends of Yemen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

9. The two sides reaffirmed their continued support for the Government and people of Afghanistan as they rebuild their country and strengthen the foundations of sustainable peace. They supported international efforts for the stability, sovereignty, unity, political independence, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, as well as respect for the principles of non-interference and non-intervention. They also supported an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of reconciliation, as well as the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

10. The two sides expressed their support for the international efforts aimed at combating sea piracy within the framework of international law and the efforts undertaken by countries of the region as well as the roles played by Australia and GCC States within the multinational Counter Piracy Combined Task Force 150.

11. The two sides reaffirmed their strong condemnation of all forms of terrorism reiterating that any terrorist act is unjustified regardless of its motives, actors and timing.

12. The two sides stressed the importance of encouraging dialogue, understanding and respect between cultures. They declared their support for the initiative launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, King of Saudi Arabia, for dialogue between the followers of all religions and cultures, and welcomed the establishment of King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Global Program for the Culture of Dialogue and Peace. The two sides expressed their support for the Alliance of Civilizations initiative and appreciated the outcomes of the Forum held in Doha in December 2010. They welcomed Australia’s role in co-sponsoring the Regional Interfaith Dialogue process in the Asia Pacific region.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the two sides agreed to hold the next Joint Ministerial Meeting on Strategic Dialogue between the Cooperation Council and Australia in 2012.

Issued in the city of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, 8 March 2011.

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