EU and GCC countries hold first joint ministerial meeting in eight years amidst deepening crisis in the Middle East
11 October 2023
It has been planned for many months, and it took place for the first time after a gap of eight years, but the meeting of the foreign ministers of the six GCC countries and the 27 EU member states when it eventually took place yesterday in Muscat, capital of Oman, was inevitably overshadowed by the deepening crisis in the Middle East triggered by Saturday's attack by Hamas on Southern Israel. Addressing the issue, whilst speaking to the media at the end of the meeting, EU High Representative Josep Borrell stated that in the meeting, the two sides agreed that "the priority is to cease violence and to prevent further regional escalation. It is of utmost importance to ensure the release of hostages, as well as the protection of civilians at all times and by all parties." commonspace.eu political editor said in a comment that it is good that after years of neglect, the EU is finally giving relations with the Gulf Co-operation Council countries the importance that they deserve. The final declaration from the Muscat meeting is ambitious and wide ranging. It needs to be seen how the EU proposes to take it forward, and what is the mechanism it will put in place to ensure that it does not remain merely a piece of paper. The final declaration announces the holding of an EU-GCC summit of Heads of State and Government but gives no details. Whilst this summit will need to be well prepared, the aim should be to have it as soon as possible. But in the meantime the crisis in Middle East will remain the topic of the day for a while, and it is good that, even if by co-incidence of timing, the EU and the GCC countries could co-ordinate their positions in such a sensitive time.