To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage co-operation between Gulf Co-operation Council countries and (a) the UK and (b) the EU.
[holding answer 20 June 2003]: The UK has strong bilateral relations with the six countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). In 2003 alone my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has had meetings with Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia, the Emirs of Kuwait and Qatar, and the Crown Princes of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. He will see the Sultan of Oman in July. Our Embassy in Riyadh has regular contact with the GCC Secretariat on a wide range of issues and the Secretary-General of the GCC visited the UK in July 2002. The EU and GCC meet annually at ministerial level to discuss a range of issues. These include trade, investment and implementation of the EU-GCC Co-operation Agreement. We are discussing the establishment of a Commission Delegation in Riyadh and hope to conclude negotiations on a free trade area with the GCC. At the last Ministerial in March 2003 the EU and the GCC resolved to develop a political dialogue.