By Arab News
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday urged Yemen’s government and opposition to sit down for talks in a bid to overcome more than two months of deadly violence amid a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
“The GCC calls on all parties in Yemen to return to national dialogue,” GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani said at an emergency meeting of the GCC foreign ministers. “We respect the Yemeni people’s will and choices that would ensure the country’s unity, security and stability,” the GCC said.
The ministers also agreed to contact with the Yemeni government and opposition to reach a consensus.
The meeting also called on Iran to refrain from hostile remarks against its Arab neighbors and stop meddling in the internal affairs of the GCC countries. According to sources, Iran was the focus of discussions at the meeting.
The meeting chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, expressed the GCC’s concern over the hidden agenda of Tehran and lambasted the statements made by an influential Iranian parliamentary panel that called for the withdrawal of Gulf forces from Bahrain.
The meeting emphasized that the GCC countries sent their joint Peninsula Shield forces to Bahrain on the request of Manama, adding that the Iranian statement was a flagrant intervention in the internal affairs of GCC states. It also praised the reforms introduced by Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa.
“The ministers also expressed concerns over Iran fueling tensions in the region and failing to respect the norms of good relations as in the case of Kuwait where a spy cell has been uncovered,” said a GCC official after the meeting on the conditions of anonymity.
He said that Kuwait or possibly other countries are considering “to expel an unspecified number of Iranian diplomats for alleged links to the spy ring” working for Tehran, reportedly ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The GCC meeting condemned Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of Kuwait, in reference to the Iranian spy issue. A Kuwaiti court has passed a death sentence on three members of the spy ring, to which Tehran has so far denied any links.
“We support all the measures taken by Kuwait to safeguard its national security,” the meeting said.
Besides Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the ministerial meeting was attended by a large number of top-ranking GCC officials. Prominent among them are Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad bin Muhammad Al Khalifa, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim Al-Thani and Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Yousef bin Alawi bin Abdullah.
The GCC ministers also reviewed the situation in the war-torn Libya, where attacks have been intensified and where warplanes flew over Brega on Sunday as rebels fought troops loyal to Muammar Qaddafi for control of the east Libyan oil town. “But, the focus was Iranian interference in the Gulf countries”, said Al-Zayani.
The GCC chief called on Iran to commit itself to the basic principles of promoting good neighborly ties and non-interference in the internal affairs, settlement of disputes through peaceful means and refrain from using or threatening its neighbors.
Meanwhile, Tehran said tensions between Iran and the GCC countries are the result of a Western and Zionist conspiracy. “Sowing discord between Islamic countries, especially between Iran and the countries of the region, is a Western and Zionist conspiracy,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
“We advise regional governments to heed the demands of their people in order to stop such conspiracies,” he said, while insisting that “unity” among Muslims was the key issue for Iran. Relations between Iran and its neighbors have been strained in recent weeks, as Tehran insists on supporting the uprisings in the Arab world.
“The stance of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to support popular movements, halt repression and acts of violence, and interference of foreigners in the region,” Mehmanparast said.