GCC foreign ministers meet this week to prepare for summit

Updated 14 November 2016
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GCC foreign ministers meet this week to prepare for summit

RIYADH: Foreign ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will this week hold a meeting to draw up the agenda for a summit to be attended by the heads of GCC countries early next month in Bahrain.
Collective security, military affairs, regional conflicts and common market as well as falling oil prices will make the agenda of the ministerial meeting.
This GCC ministerial meeting, the first after the US elections, has added significance as it has also been entrusted with the task of finalizing the agenda of the GCC Supreme Council meeting. The ministers are also likely to discuss the proposal to transform the GCC into a “Gulf Union,” which was proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2011.
“Recommendations by ministerial councils and joint committees, as well as regional conflicts in the Middle East, will be reviewed by the foreign ministers as part of the preparatory meeting of the GCC summit,” said a reliable source. The ministers will also discuss the Syrian crisis, Iranian intransigence and the GCC initiative on Yemen, which is yet to be implemented in the war-torn
country.
“This ministerial session has been convened while the region is witnessing serious challenges that require vigilance, unity and hard work in order to preserve GCC solidarity and achievements,” he added. The GCC initiative in Yemen needs to be promoted with full strength and in cooperation with international partners.
A Saudi Arabian-led coalition of mostly Arab countries, backed by the United States, intervened in Yemen last March in support of the internationally recognized government.
The GCC is a strong regional political and economic bloc, which was founded in 1981. There have been discussions about the future GCC membership of Jordan, Morocco and Yemen in the past.
The Supreme Council, which comprises the heads of GCC member states, is the highest authority of the GCC. Jordan’s request to join the GCC was accepted in 2011, whereas Morocco was invited to join the bloc. A five-year economic plan for Jordan and Morocco was prepared and submitted by the GCC foreign ministers in September 2011. The plan was designed to boost political and economic capabilities of the two countries.
There is no timeline for accession to the GCC despite the fact that a plan for membership for the two countries are being reviewed.


Amnesty decries Houthi prosecution of Bahais in Yemen

Updated 16 min 56 sec ago
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Amnesty decries Houthi prosecution of Bahais in Yemen

CAIRO: An international rights group on Tuesday decried the prosecution of 24 Yemeni Bahais, including women and a teenager, by a Houthi rebel court on espionage charges.
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of research, said the group fears the Bahais could receive the death penalty amid “flagrantly unfair proceedings.”
The trial opened on Saturday and has been adjourned until Sept. 29. A lawyer following the case said the process was swift and most of the defendants were tried in absentia because only five were in custody. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution.
Iran banned the Baha’i religion, which was founded in 1844 by a Persian nobleman.
The Iranian-backed Houthis have occupied northern Yemen since 2014, after which the legitimate government fled the country and sought military intervention by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition. Houthis have waged an all-out campaign against all political and religious opponents and held thousands in detention, where torture is rampant.
The Houthi group’s leader has targeted Bahais in public speeches describing them as “satanic” and several Bahais have been detained, tortured and held incommunicado, according to the community’s UN representative.
A top figure was sentenced to death over charges of collaboration with Israel. In 2016, over 60 women, men and children participating in an educational gathering organized by Bahais were arrested as part of a mass crackdown on the religious community.
Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, expressed concern in a statement and said the charges were “extremely alarming and mark a severe intensification of pressure.”
He also said that the Houthi targeting of Bahais is “eerily reminiscent of the persecution of Baha’is in Iran in the 1980s during which leaders of the Baha’i community were rounded up and killed.”