SHANNON, Ireland (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who starts a Middle East tour today, said Washington is counting on a “new configuration” with its Arab allies to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
She said the group would involve moderate Arab allies in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain — along with Egypt and Jordan, and would be called the GCC+2.
“I do think that the GCC+2 effort is new and it gives us an opportunity, in a new configuration, to work with the moderate states and the moderate voices in the region,” Rice told journalists just prior to a stopover at Shannon airport late Sunday.
“That configuration can be quite powerful in resisting extremist forces as well,” she said.
Rice is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia late Monday, her first stop on a four-day tour that also includes Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The highlight of the trip will be a meeting with foreign ministers with the eight states in the so-called GCC+2, reportedly due to take place in Cairo on Tuesday.
Support from Washington’s moderate Arab allies is seen as key to US plans for Iraq, Lebanon and the nuclear standoff with Iran — which is refusing a UN deadline to halt its uranium enrichment activities which its says is for peaceful purposes.
These Arab allies see the festering Israeli-Palestinian stalemate as feeding instability and radicalism across the region.
In mid-September, US President George W. Bush said in a speech at the United Nations that his administration would undertook a new bid at trying to relaunch the Middle East peace talks.