Gulf Cooperation Council

views updated Jun 11 2018


Arab organization, officially the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (Majlis al-Ta'awan li Dual al-Khalij al-Arabiya), including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, created on 26 May 1981. The headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The group is a mutual protection organization of Arab monarchies, controlled by the Saudis, and its purposes are to strengthen cooperation and promote integration and coordination among the members in economic and military affairs, particularly in security matters, both external and internal. It was first proposed by Saudi Arabia in 1979 after an armed revolt in Mecca and was created less than a year after the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988). Previous efforts to create such international institutions often failed; an example of this is the attempt to establish a free-trade zone, beginning in August 1964, through the Council of Arab Economic Unity, an organ of the League of Arab States. These failures were mainly due to the concerns of smaller nations about preserving their autonomy in the face of the great regional powers that were competing against each other for leadership. However, the Camp David Accords, followed by the expulsion of Egypt from the Arab League and the conflict between Iran and Iraq, with the light it shed on the vulnerability of countries in the area, prompted countries in the region to strengthen their ties. In 1982 the council failed in an attempt to mediate a truce in the Iran-Iraq War. In 1986, however, the war inspired the council to create a common defense force, which was deployed at the Saudi border with Kuwait when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, although it did not intervene. In December 1990 the GCC demanded that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait; its troops were subsequently part of the American-international coalition that ejected Iraq in the Gulf War of 1991. On 6 March 1991, after the war, the foreign ministers of Syria, Egypt, and the GCC states pronounced in favor of maintaining an "Arab peace force" in the Gulf. The Damascus Declaration signed at this meeting also called for improving economic cooperation among Arab states. At the same time, a majority of GCC members opposed an immediate resumption of contacts with countries that had supported Iraq during the Gulf crisis. The members suspended all aid to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as long as Yasir Arafat, who had supported Iraq, was its head. The council also declared in favor of a "just and global peace" in Palestine/Israel based on the principle of "land for peace." Member states participated in the Madrid Conference, begun in November 1991. Two member states, the Sultanate of Oman and the Emirate of Qatar, initiated relations with Israel.

In 1993, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, member states resumed relations with, and aid to, the PLO. On 12 March 1995, in spite of the reservations of Oman and Qatar, the GCC published a communiqué declaring that it was necessary to maintain international sanctions against Iraq as long as that country had not fulfilled all of its obligations under UN Resolution 687. On 28 June 1998 the members of the GCC denounced Israel's intention of expanding the geographical boundaries of Jerusalem. On 19 May 1999 the leaders of the GCC countries met in Saudi Arabia to discuss the Middle East peace process and rapprochement with Iran. Six days later President Muhammad Khatami made an official visit to Saudi Arabia, the first by an Iranian leader since the Islamic revolution of 1979. On 14 November 1999, the defense ministers of the GCC member countries announced the strengthening of defense agreements between their states. In December 2001 the members agreed to establish a customs union among their countries, which began in 2003, and a common market with a single currency by 2010. The GCC did not take an official position on the American-British war in Iraq that began in 2003, although the member states were not in favor. In December 2002 the Saudi foreign minister urged the United States not to launch the war unilaterally, and in January 2003 the council encouraged Russia in its diplomatic efforts to prevent the war. However, all member countries, particularly Kuwait, gave logistical assistance by opening bases, staging areas, ports, and territorial waters to US and British troops and supplies.

Member states of the GCC hold 45 percent of the world oil reserves and 15 percent of the natural gas. The GCC maintains a permanent mission at the European Union and in 2004 was negotiating the creation of a free trade zone with the European Union.

SEE ALSO Arafat, Yasir;Camp David Accords;Council of Arab Economic Unity;Gulf War (1991);Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988);League of Arab States;Oslo Accords;Oslo Accords II;Palestine Liberation Organization.

Gulf Cooperation Council

views updated May 29 2018


An organization of six Arab states in the Persian Gulf region, formed to promote joint military, economic, and political endeavors.

The Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the outbreak of the IranIraq War were among the major reasons that the leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates decided to establish the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Because the member countries had at the outset much in common regarding economic matters, these could be agreed upon and implemented more easily than matters of defense. Thus, six months after its founding in May 1981, the GCC announced a Unified Economic Agreement that provided for the free movement of people and capital among member states, abolished customs duties, made banking and financial systems more compatible, and improved technical cooperation among the states. During the 1980s and 1990s many of the provisions of the agreement were implemented, and the GCC moved slowly forward in dealing with security matters. In 1984 members agreed to establish a rapid deployment unit called the Peninsula Shield Force. In 2000 the member states formally committed to a policy of mutual defense against foreign attack, and expansion of the Peninsula Shield Force from 5,000 to 22,000. The GCC also has been involved in mediating territorial disputes between members (for example, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain) and between member states and other countries (such as the United Arab Emi-rates and Iran).


Peterson, Erik R. The Gulf Cooperation Council: Search for Unity in a Dynamic Region. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.

emile a. nakhleh
updated by anthony b. toth

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Gulf Cooperation Council

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