JEDDAH — Jasem Albudaiwi, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), revealed that the GCC will vigorously pursue to get the Gulf citizens exempted from Schengen visas. “During negotiations in Brussels with the leaders of the European Union, which is scheduled to begin in the second week of Ramadan, I will speak, on behalf of the GCC states, to exempt the Gulf citizens from the regime of Schengen visa. We have a strong file to obtain the exemption, and God willing, we will celebrate this year by obtaining the exemption for the first time,” he said in his interview with the “Mikhyal Ramadan” program, aired on the Saudi Television Channel 1, presented by the broadcaster Abdullah Al-Bandar.

Albudaiwi said that the 44th Doha Summit of the GCC Supreme Council, held in December 2023, approved the unified Gulf visa, which allows the Gulf citizens to enter the six countries. “The GCC is moving in the right direction and we are proud to be in this system, in light of cohesion, and everyone is aware of the importance of economic integration. There is wonderful coordination and rapprochement in all political, security-military, and intellectual fields, and with more work, we will reach full economic integration,” he said.

The GCC chief said that the gross national income of the six GCC countries amounted to $2.2 trillion, which means that they are in 9th place in the world. Referring to the inception of the Gulf Cooperation Council, he recalled the statement of former Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, and his emphasis on the geopolitical challenges facing the GCC countries since the Iran-Iraq war. He talked about the efforts to establish free trade agreements between the GCC countries and many other countries, such as China, Turkey and Pakistan.

Albudaiwi called on the international community to pressure Israel to accept the two-state solution and lift the siege on Gaza. “Israel must realize that the two-state solution is the solution to guarantee its security and peace, and it will not guarantee this except by reaching a real dialogue with the Palestinian side, regardless of the technology and surveillance cameras it uses,” he said.

Responding to his career as ambassador of Kuwait to South Korea, he highlighted the key role he played in the negotiations for the free trade agreement between the two countries, and his strengthening of relations between the two countries. He also recalled that the Korean parliament nominated him to receive an annual award for the best ambassador.

Albudaiwi spoke about his participation in the issue of exempting Kuwaiti nationals from the Schengen visa in the European Union. He acknowledged the role of the late Abdulaziz Al-Sudairi, son of the former Kuwaiti ambassador, in his entry into the world of politics, as he had experience in analysis by virtue of his doctoral studies in political science, until he became the spokesman for Kuwait in the American state of Utah. “At one time, during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Al-Sudairi impersonated me and spoke to an American channel, and began speaking in my name to confirm my presence there, and he was credited with introducing me to American society.”

Al-Budaiwi stressed that the Kuwaitis will not forget Saudi Arabia and its brothers’ stand with them during the 1990 invasion. “May God bestow upon us the grace of liberation with the help of our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. They did not fall short with us, and the event is the greatest evidence of our importance, our interconnectedness, and the integration of the Gulf States,” he said.

The GCC chief also spoke about his stint at the Kuwait News Agency, and his appointment as a diplomatic attaché in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he became very close to Sheikh Salem Sabah Al-Salem, and worked in the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in charge of the media wing.

Al-Budaiwi pointed out that he moved between embassies in several countries, including the United States of America, where he witnessed the terror attacks of September 11.

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