Jakarta, 28 February 2011

The ASEAN-GCC ties that began with the first ever formal dialogue in Manama, Bahrain, in June 2009 will be best served by the path of dialogue and accommodation among the parties involved in the violent confrontation in the island state of the Arabian Gulf, said Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN.

“I have been watching the ongoing political situation in the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with great concern. Among the countries in the region, ASEAN has welcome seven accredited Ambassadors. But the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been a special focus of our cooperation, having had an annual meeting between the Foreign Ministers from the two sides for the past two years. Things are going well between the two regional organisations and we are working on many projects of mutual benefits,” said Dr Surin.

Since the uprising began in Tunisia and Egypt, tens of thousands of ASEAN citizens, workers and students, have been directly affected and evacuation efforts have been carried out, with ASEAN Member States helping each other in the process. ASEAN economies have also been negatively impacted by the rise of the prices of oil and gas due to disruption of production and transport.

“I particularly welcome the call by the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, for a comprehensive and genuine dialogue among the opposing parties to settle their differences amicably,” Dr Surin responded to questions by members of the media.

Bahrain has been one of the most active promoters of ASEAN-GCC cooperation. It is the only country in the GCC grouping that has been affected by the waves of unrest sweeping the MENA region. Thousands of ASEAN citizens are working in the island kingdom and have been well treated. “We have not had to mount an emergency evacuation effort like in other countries,” said the Secretary-General.

“We have been exploring a free trade agreement possibility with the GCC, we are encouraging investment, tourism, education, food security, energy and agricultural cooperation between us. Our third Foreign Ministers Meeting is slated for November this year in Abu Dhabi. We certainly do not want to see instability in the Gulf region to be prolonged,” he added.