Wien, 20. February 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "The Gulf States are important partners in the Middle East peace activities"

20.02.2007

Foreign Minister meets Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Vienna, 20 February 2007 - "The countries on the Persian Gulf are important partners in the Middle East peace activities. Only recently, Saudi Arabia contributed decisively to putting an end to internal Palestinian disputes by mediating the agreement between Hamas and Fatah in Mecca", Foreign Minister Plassnik said following her meeting with the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul-Rahman Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, in Vienna. "I hope that the Gulf States will continue to contribute intensively to the peace efforts. Regional initiatives in particular are important in giving a fresh impetus to the political process", Plassnik continued. The Foreign Minister described the recent trilateral meeting between Condoleezza Rice, Ehud Olmert and Mahmud Abbas as an important contribution to the continuation of the dialogue in the Middle East, which will be carried forward tomorrow within the framework of the Middle East Quartet.

As regards Iran the Foreign Minister confirmed that the sanctions envisaged by the UN Security Council would be implemented if Iran did not comply with the call to suspend its enrichment programme. "At the same time our hand remains extended, we are still willing to engage in a dialogue and aim for a diplomatic solution. The comprehensive 'Vienna Package' of 1 June 2006, which offers a large number of incentives to Iran, still stands", Plassnik said, referring to today’s meeting in Vienna between the Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.

The Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul-Rahman Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, recognised Austria’s commitment to Lebanon and underlined how much the assistance Austria had pledged at the Paris Conference in January was appreciated. "The stabilisation of Lebanon is another common concern we share with the Gulf States. We support the Arab League’s mediation efforts aimed at progressing the international dialogue", the Foreign Minister emphasised.

"The EU and the Gulf States are important partners in an increasingly interconnected world. This holds true for both political and economic issues, including the significant aspect of energy security", Plassnik stated. Regarding the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council the Foreign Minister said: "Since a conclusion was already within reach during Austria’s EU Council Presidency, I am confident that the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council will be able to reach an agreement before the end of Germany’s Presidency. This will contribute to further strengthening the tight network of relations between our regions", Plassnik stressed, pointing out that the agreement went far beyond economic targets and prepared the ground for a structured political cooperation between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council. "With respect to the Dialogue among Religions and Cultures we can also make a lot of difference by joining forces. Austria has a tradition of contributing to this Dialogue, and we should also focus on increasing the involvement of women in political life", Plassnik stated.

Concerning the building up of capacities for the peaceful use of nuclear energy planned by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Plassnik underlined that Austria rejected nuclear energy on principle and pointed to the related environmental and safety risks. With a view to a sustainable energy policy it made sense to promote the expansion of alternative sources of energy production. Austria with its know-how in this area could be a partner for the future.

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