GCC Begins Shift Towards Union

The six-member GCC has begun formal talks to forge a diplomatic and military union that could share a border with Israel in the near future.

Gabe Kahn.,

GCC Union Conference, March 4 2011
GCC Union Conference, March 4 2011

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began formal discussions of forging a diplomatic and military union on Sunday.

Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al Faisal said in Riyadh that the new union would not affect the domestic sovereignty of its members.

"The proposal to move into a union is based on the conviction that the performance of the council would be enhanced after 32 years of coordination and on Article Four of the Charter," Faisal was quoted as saying by the London-based Saudi daily Al Sharq Al Awsat on Monday.

The GCC, established in May 1981 in Abu Dhabi, is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz called on the six-member council to move from the phase of cooperation to the phase of union within a single entity at the GCC conference in December.

The call, which gave formal voice to a growing sentiment in GCC capitals, was enthusiastically supported by the six member states seeking greater integration.

Those sentiments have mounted despite concerns among member states about constitutional and social divergences between the member states due to concerns over Iran's aggressive moves to secure hegemony over the Persian Gulf.

A committee representing the member states, set up to look into the matter and submit remarks and recommendations, held its first meeting on February 21 and 22. Its report was presented to the GCC foreign ministers at their meeting in Riyadh.

"The proposal for the union is based on the premise that the challenges around us demand that we take a leap forward in order to be better qualified and adequately empowered to confront them as a unified bloc," al-Faisal said.

"Of course, there is awareness that there remain many cooperation and coordination aspects between us to be completed and a need to exert all efforts to remove obstacles and impediments," he added.

"The GCC has acquired a great deal of influence and effectiveness in dealing with events; however, the new developments and our urgent need to confront challenges and accelerated changes require a union that is more robustly cohesive and better able to tackle them," he said.

The structure and performance of the union will, at the very least, mean the six member states share a central foreign ministry and military command.

The push for union has been mirrored by a push for expansion. December 2011 also saw the beginning of talks to integrate the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan into GCC ranks, while Egypt and Morocco have been singled out for potential membership as well.

The six members of the GCC have formally been at war with Israel since 1948. The inclusion of Jordan, and potentially Egypt in the GCC, would put the new union on Israel's borders and raises serious questions about those nations' peace accords with the Jewish state.