JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, (AFP) —The Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday discussed a five-year economic development plan for Jordan and Morocco, which both hope to join the alliance of oil-rich monarchies, officials said.
The six GCC foreign ministers met their counterparts from Jordan and Morocco to consider “a five-year economic development plan to support Jordan,” said Amman’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
“This plan also applies to Morocco,” GCC chief Abdulatif al-Zayani told reporters after the meeting, the first to include the Jordanian and Moroccan ministers since a GCC decision in May to consider accepting the two countries into the regional alliance.
“A working group was formed to study the procedures for accession of Jordan to the GCC,” said Judeh, who added “there is no timetable” for accession. “Discussions will continue,” he said.
His Moroccan counterpart Taeib Fassi Fihri said his country was “anxious to have good relations and strong cooperation with the GCC.”
Jordan is an immediate neighbour of GCC heavyweight Saudi Arabia and a major trading partner of alliance countries, but Morocco is geographically distant from the Gulf.
“The geographical distance is no obstacle to a strong relationship,” said Fihri.
The GCC, which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has remained an exclusive club since its inception in 1981.
Jordan and Morocco are the only Arab kingdoms not in the GCC.
The oil-rich Arab states of the Gulf, which have seen entrenched regimes in Egypt and Tunisia fall, are seeking reliable allies in the region, singling out fellow monarchies.
Zayani said the GCC ministers also discussed Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh has so far refused to sign a plan by the alliance following months of protests calling for his ouster.
He said the plan, which calls for Saleh to transfer power to his deputy, was “still on the table,” and that the GCC hoped for “an agreement.”
Zayani also welcomed the new authorities who took power in Libya after ousting strongman Moamer Kadhafi.
“We call for the restoration of security and stability, as well as for tolerance and the opening of a new page” in Libya, he said.
A GCC closing statement also mentioned Iran and Syria.
It called for “an immediate end to the killing machine” in Syria, and urged “the immediate implementation of serious reforms that meet the aspirations of the Syrian” people.
Last month, GCC states Saudi Arabia Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their envoys from Damascus to protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on anti-regime protests that began in March.
The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed since then.
The GCC statement also accused Iran of issuing provocative statements about its members.
It deplored Iranian statements “to challenge some GCC countries, in disregard of the rules of good neighbourliness,” saying “these statements do not help improve relations between both sides.”
Iran’s relations with the Gulf monarchies have been strained in the wake of repeated criticism of Saudi intervention in Bahrain in mid-March to help Manama quell a popular uprising led by the Shiite majority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.
The tensions appeared to have calmed in recent weeks, however, with a dampening of criticism from both sides.