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.


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 37 min 2 sec ago
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.