Sultan to arrive in Yemen for GCC entry talks [Archives:2006/950/Front Page]

May 29 2006

Adel Al-Khawlani
SANA'A, May 28 ) Crown prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Aviation, is scheduled to visit Yemen May 31 for talks with Yemeni officials on its accession to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Foreign Ministry announced Sunday.

The Saudi prince is due to tour Hadramout's provincial capital of Mukalla as part of his official visit to the country. He will meet Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Prime Minister Abdulqader Bajammal to discuss several other issues, including the fight against terrorism and preventing cross-border weapons and drug trafficking.

The Saudi official's visit is the fruit of a series of Yemeni efforts to join the six-nation GCC. The matter is due to top the two sides' talks in coming days.

Abdullah Al-Ahwal, Yemeni Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said Thursday that Yemen's admission to the GCC will top the prince's agenda during his visit to Yemen this week.

“Yemen reiterates its wish to join the GCC and is qualified to gain GCC membership. Full GCC membership for Yemen certainly will reflect the historical ties linking it to the rest of the Arab Gulf,” Al-Ahwal said, “The two bordering nations' officials are to discuss steps Yemen must take prior to joining the GCC.”

The Yemeni envoy added that his country, with its historical heritage, political strength and important strategic location for security and stability in the Arabian Peninsula and GCC nations, is qualified to join.

According to the diplomat, the Saudi prince will co-preside over a meeting of the newly established Saudi-Yemeni Coordination Council, a joint body responsible for bilateral cooperation on security issues.

“Yemen and Saudi Arabia will sign a number of commercial and economic cooperation agreements, mainly granting Saudi funds to finance development projects in Yemen,” Saudi media quoted Al-Ahwal as saying.

Senior Yemeni government officials mentioned that it will to be to the advantage of Yemen and various other Gulf states to allow Sana'a to enter the GCC, noting that the European Union spent hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare European nations with ailing economies to join the EU.

Yemen's government recurrently has sought to join the six-nation GCC bloc, with Chairman Abdurrahman Al-Atteyah and other leaders deciding last December to allow Sana'a to join GCC ministerial councils in areas of sports, health, education, labor and social affairs.

The GCC allowed Yemen to partake in the Arabian Gulf Football Championship as part of its gradual integration into the GCC. Yemen's football team participated in the championship's 16th and 17th rounds and currently is preparing for the 18th round due in January 2007.

The Yemeni government says it has a new initiative for GCC leaders and hopes to secure membership in economic groups and other GCC institutions. Meanwhile, Yemeni officials believe that their nation deserves to join on account of its many recent achievements, including its World Bank-backed economic reforms and efforts for admission to the World Trade Organization.

The republic is projected to have attained full GCC accession by 2016, once its economy meets standards set by the organization's requirements. GCC member states have approved a $45 million development plan to improve Yemen's vulnerable economy. The plan includes constructing several roads, harbors and power stations, as well as drilling gas wells and improving technical education.