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30 June 2013

OIC opens office in Brussels to strengthen cooperation with EU

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Brussels: The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) , Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu , Tuesday officially opened the OIC Permanent Observer Mission to the European Union in Brussels saying the 57-member organization is keen to develop relations with the 27-member European bloc.

"There is also a growing and developing interest on the highest level in the EU to cooperate with the OIC," he told the gathering of diplomats and officials from Europe and the Muslim world present at the inaugural ceremony.

He noted that the OIC is the second-biggest organization after the United Nations having 57 members in four continents. Ihsanoglou said the OIC signed an agreement with the Belgian foreign ministry in 2011 to open the mission in Brussels and in November of the same they purchased the building in which the office is now located.

"I think our relations with the European Union on the different agenda items that we share will benefit all of us. There is a need for the cooperation between the Muslim world and Europe and the OIC as a collective voice of the Muslim world which stands for modernization and moderation will be the proper institution to deal with the EU," he stressed.

Hugues Mingarelli, Managing Director for North Africa and Middle East in the EU foreign service, known as the European External Action Service, said that EU High Representative Catherine Ashton was to be present at the opening of the office but she was held up at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

"There are a number of reasons why we should intensify our relations," he said noting that the two sides have to cooperate to promote "our common values for tolerance, mutual understanding, respect for belief and religion." "If we want to be effective in addressing a number of crises starting with the Syrian tragedy, we have to strengthen our cooperation because alone there is very little that we can do," he added.

"I hope the opening of this mission in Brussels will be a new milestone in the intensification of the relations between the OIC and the EU," stressed Mingarelli.

Francois de Kerchove, Director of the Belgian Foreign Minister's cabinet, expressed a "high degree of satisfaction" over the opening of the OIC office in Brussels.

He noted that the EU and OIC share two common objectives which are shared values and practical issues such as the ongoing tragedy in Syria.

"I hope the EU and the OIC together will be able to address these issues better, "he said and wished the OIC success in its cooperation with the EU and Belgium.

For his part, Saudi Ambassador to the EU and Belgium Faisal Trad told the Kuwait news agency (KUNA), "I believe this is a very important step in the recognition of the Islamic world." "I believe the opening of an OIC observer office in the heart of the EU is a plus to the great work that Islamic countries and the OIC are doing. I believe the relations between the Islamic world and Europe are very, very important," said Trad.

He noted that the population of the EU is about 450 million and the Muslim world population is 1.5 billion and therefore it is important that the EU and Belgium should have a better recognition and communication with the OIC, he added.

(Courtesy: KUNA)

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