EU High Representative for foreign and security policy Catherine Ashton has said that she finds the idea of forming a new strategy with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) interesting and will discus it in the next meeting with the GCC.
“Designing a strategy for the Gulf states is very interesting. I think the next meeting with the GCC shortly will be an opportunity to talk with them,” Ashton told the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee here Tuesday evening.
Ashton noted that she talks with ministers from the different Gulf states from time to time.
“We have a good dialogue, ” she added.
The next EU-GCC ministerial meeting is expected to be held on 20 April.
In her speech to the Committee, Ashton also referred to developments in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Iran.
She denied criticism that the EU had been slow to respond to the crises in the region, saying, “sometimes, we do lag behind and it can be difficult to keep up with events but we have not been lagging behind at all in this case of Libya.”
On Bahrain, she said that the crown prince “appears to have put forward an interesting proposal for a dialogue to start without preconditions,” and added that she supports the dialogue.
Answering to questions by MEPs on the Iranian influence in Bahrain , Ashton said it is “a very interesting question. ”
“On the one hand , I don’ t want to see that as a reason for the Bahraini government to fail to engage with the protestors. On the other hand , certainly the Americans believe there is quite a bit of reason to be nervous about that . So we have to balance it.”
On Libya , she said the EU wants the Libyan people of to be able to determine their future to live in democracy, to have security, to have their human rights respected.
Later two EU officials , Hugues Mingarelli, Managing Director for the Middle East in the EU external service , and Robert Cooper who was dispatched by Ashton earlier this week to Bahrain spoke to the Committee on the situation in Bahrain.
Both of them welcomed the crown prince’s offer for dialogue without pre conditions.
Responding to questions by some MEPs on the dispatch of Saudi troops to Bahrain, Mingarelli said, “the Saudi Arabian army has been invited within the framework of the agreement of the Gulf Cooperation Council, there is an article saying that all the states must show solidarity. if any of them is in danger, the others are in danger too and therefore they have to intervene … It is the equivalent of the article 5 of NATO.”
Mingarelli also suggested that the EU could play the role of a facilitator in the launching of a dialogue if the authorities in Bahrain wish it.