Six Gulf Nations Agree to Provide $10 Billion to Poorer Allies
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Six oil-rich gulf nations agreed Tuesday to provide at least $10 billion in aid to Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries that helped rid Kuwait of Iraqi occupation.
″It’s a historic decision,″ said Abdullah Bishara, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the conclusion of a meeting of finance ministers from the region.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of finance, Mohammed Abalkhail, however, told reporters the size of the fund had not yet been fixed. He said the council would announce the final figure later.
Council members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar hope to wield greater political influence in the post-war era by rewarding their allies, especially Egypt and Syria.
Jordan and Yemen, which tilted toward Iraq during the war, are not expected to receive any assistance.
The private sector will ″play a very important role″ as a recipient of aid from the fund the gulf council nations will create, Bishara said.
″I think there is a global trend for liberalization and no one can be excluded from this trend,″ he said.
The fund will disburse $10 billion over 10 years, Bishara said. Egypt and Syria will get the bulk of the aid, he said. He did not identify the other recipients or provide a breakdown of how much money each country would get.
Egypt and Syria had been hoping to get about $15 billion in commitments.
The war dealt heavy economic blows to poorer Middle Eastern nations.
The richer Arab countries already have written off about $7 billion in debt owed them by Egypt; the United States has written off a similar amount.
But Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak noted the forgiven debt did not make up for the $20 billion Egypt lost as a result of the Gulf War.
″The gulf crisis does not mean cash will start flowing to us from every direction and there will be prosperity,″ he said last month. ″There is no prosperity in the whole world. If we want to live an honorable life, we must not rely on the outside to provide our food.″
Mubarak said 700,000 Egyptians who worked in Iraq and Kuwait had returned home, unemployed and without their savings. Egypt also lost billions of dollars in tourism dollars, and oil export revenues fell because of increased domestic consumption.
The postwar alliance of militarily powerful but economically weak Egypt and Syria with their oil-rich but thinly populated gulf counterparts was formalized March 6 in the so-called Damascus Declaration.
To prevent a future crisis similar to the invasion of Kuwait, 35,000 Egyptian and 20,000 Syrian troops would form the backbone of a force to defend the gulf states.