Dr. John Duke Anthony on the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum

Third Ministerial Meeting of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum in New York City on September 26, 2013. Photo: U.S. State Department.

Yesterday marked another significant event in the evolution of the U.S. relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. GCC Foreign Ministers, GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met in New York for the Third Ministerial Meeting of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum. The forum was established in March 2012 “to deepen strategic cooperation and coordination of policies to advance shared political, military, security, and economic interests in the Gulf region, foster enhanced stability and security throughout the Middle East, and strengthen the close ties between the GCC and the United States.”

National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, the only American to have been invited to each of the GCC’s Ministerial and Heads of State Summits since the GCC’s inception in 1981, remarked that: “This meeting represents another significant step toward placing the relationship between the U.S. and the GCC on a more solid and enduring foundation. The growing U.S. awareness of the GCC is vital. It is hard to imagine an organization, geographically significantly larger than all of Western Europe combined, that has a larger global reach — in terms of its internationally-oriented policies and positions, in terms of its actions and attitudes — regarding its members and billions of other people’s issues, regarding its members and billions of other people’s legitimate needs and concerns, and regarding its members and billions of other people’s legitimate interests and national development processes as well as foreign policy objectives.”

Gulf Cooperation Council

Dr. Anthony added that, “[l]est one regard the GCC as a still evolving and relatively insignificant entity when it comes to major matters of importance and interest to the world, one need only ponder the following. For example, the GCC, in cooperation with the League of Arab States, the United States, and NATO, played a formidable transitional role in the situation in Libya in 2011; the GCC countries were the first to pledge billions in economic stabilization support, humanitarian aid, and developmental assistance to Egypt’s massively impoverished people; the GCC’s central role — personally and especially that of GCC Secretary General Dr. Al Zayani — in brokering the peaceful transition in Yemen’s presidential power in 2011; and the GCC’s extraordinary example of monetary, fiscal, and overall financial and economic stability from 2008 onwards despite the economic upheavals in practically every place else in the world.”

Posted below are links to remarks by Dr. Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg, GCC Assistant Secretary General for Negotiations and Strategic Dialogue, made at the National Council’s 21st Annual Policymakers Conference on Arab-U.S. relations on October 26, 2012, along with the full text of a Joint Communique issued following the Third Ministerial Meeting for the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum September 26, 2012 in New York.

Remarks from Dr. Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg at the 21st Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference:

Joint Communique from the Third Ministerial Meeting for the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum:

The following is a Joint Communiqué issued following the Third Ministerial Meeting for the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum September 26, 2012 in New York:

Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Secretary General of the GCC, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met today in New York for the third ministerial meeting of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum. Since its establishment in March 2012, this Forum has served to enhance strategic cooperation and coordination of policies which advance shared political, military, security and economic objectives in the Gulf region. On the basis of today’s vital talks, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States reached consensus on ways to bolster stability and security throughout the Middle East and deepen the close relations between the two sides.

The Ministers condemned in the strongest possible terms the horrific chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs inflicted by the Syrian regime on August 21. They reaffirmed their united position on holding the Syrian regime legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime, and expressed outrage concerning the violation of an international norm that has been developed over nearly a century against the use of these weapons.

They noted that the atrocities inflicted by the Syrian regime go far beyond the heinous crime of using chemical weapons. They underscored that those responsible for all crimes inflicted by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people must not escape justice and must be held responsible.

Moreover, the Ministers denounced the alarming pattern of escalating violence and killing of civilians inflicted by the Syrian regime that has created a humanitarian problem within Syria and beyond its borders, and stressed the imperative to accelerate a transition to a new Syrian government that reflects the aspirations of the Syrian people and advances national unity, pluralism and human rights for all. They reaffirmed their shared position that Bashar Al Asad and his top aides who are responsible for the massacres inflicted upon the Syrian people have no place in the transitional body or thereafter.

The Ministers affirmed their support for the Syrian Opposition Coalition and recommitted to providing any and all assistance to the Syrian opposition through the SOC and its associated body, the Assistance Coordination Unit and the Supreme Military Council. The Ministers further expressed their strong support for negotiating a political solution to the Syrian crisis based on the 2012 Geneva I Communiqué. In accordance with that document, the Syrian regime and a single opposition delegation will negotiate a Transitional Governing Body, agreed by mutual consent and with the transfer of full executive powers, including military and security institutions, that excludes the central figures and associates whose hands are stained with blood. Further, in accordance with the Geneva Communiqué, the political process will lead to democratic elections, making the regime-sponsored May 2014 elections irrelevant.

The Ministers also affirmed their commitment to continuing diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, whose lives have been so deeply affected by this crisis. The Ministers also called upon the regime to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance wherever needed. In addition, the Ministers commended the leadership of the State of Kuwait in organizing the Donors’ Conference on January 30, 2013, which generated over $1.6 billion in pledges, and Syria’s neighbors for their efforts on hosting refugees.

The Ministers emphasized the importance of stability in Egypt and supported the roadmap and timetable to an inclusive, constitutional and democratic government.

The Ministers praised President Hadi and the Government of Yemen for leading an inclusive, peaceful transition process through commitment to the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative for Yemen. The Ministers emphasized the importance of maintaining the transition’s momentum according to the timeline laid out in the GCC-brokered agreement, culminating in national elections in 2014. The Ministers called on all Yemenis to seize this extraordinary opportunity to resolve their differences in a non-violent way, pursue meaningful reform, and commit to the principle of unity. They also pledged to continue providing vital foreign assistance to Yemen during this critical time through mechanisms that promote greater transparency and achieve results that tangibly improve the lives of all Yemeni citizens.

The Ministers welcomed US efforts in the resumption of peace negotiations, aimed at bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and working towards a peaceful settlement based on a two-state solution according to the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. They affirmed their determination to support a comprehensive, just and long-lasting resolution of the conflict that creates a viable Palestinian state, resolves all permanent status issues and secures comprehensive regional peace and security. The Ministers further affirmed their willingness to provide whatever support may be necessary to achieve this outcome, including economic support for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Economic Initiative.

The Ministers congratulated the Governments of Kuwait and Iraq for the recent improvement in their bilateral relations.

The Ministers followed with interest statements by President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, regarding Iran’s interest in resolving its differences with neighbors, and emphasized the need for Iran to translate that into concrete and practical steps.

The Ministers called on the Iranian government to honor its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and relevant UN Security Council resolutions in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program as well as regional environmental concerns resulting from implications of Iran’s nuclear program, particularly the Bushehr nuclear plant. They called upon Iran to base its relations with its neighbors according to the principles of good neighborliness and non-interference.

The Ministers reaffirmed their rejection of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism in all their forms. They condemned the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the recruitment of innocent children to carry out attacks. The Ministers praised the role played by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna. The Ministers also praised the efforts of the Hedayah Center in Abu Dhabi, which serves as a leading international institution for training, dialogue, collaboration, and research to counter violent extremism.

In view of the significant political, economic and security challenges facing the Gulf region, the Ministers announced that the United States and the GCC states would continue to take concerted and collective action under the framework of the GCC-US Strategic Cooperation Forum to promote peace, security, stability, and prosperity throughout the region. The Ministers resolved to work together to:

1. Continue to work towards enhanced U.S.-GCC coordination on Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), including the eventual development of a Gulf-wide coordinated missile defense architecture built around interoperable U.S. and GCC forces that would serve as an integrated system to defend the territory and assets of the GCC states against the threat of ballistic missiles.

2. Continue to improve the unity of the GCC in defense planning and develop common approaches to military procurement of weapons systems and technology.

3. Expand the capacity of the GCC Maritime Operations Center (MOC) in Bahrain to share information on the maritime domain in the Gulf region.

4. In light of the success of the second U.S.-GCC Counterproliferation Workshop held in April 2013 in Riyadh, encourage further progress in this area.

5. Give full support to the high-level Joint Committee for Security Cooperation, charged with issues of counter-terrorism and border control with special focus on issues such as counter money laundering and terrorism financing, combating piracy and arms smuggling, traveler screening, Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection, as well as countering violent and extremist ideologies. The Ministers welcomed the upcoming meeting of the Committee on 8-9 October 2013.

6. Augment the economic partnership between the GCC and the United States by achieving the goals outlined during the inaugural GCC-US Trade and Investment Forum under the umbrella of the Framework Agreement for Trade, economic, Investment and Technical Cooperation between the two sides which took place on 3-5 June 2013 at the GCC Secretariat in Riyadh.

7. Work towards convening high-level working groups meant to advance cooperation in the areas of public health, environmental and humanitarian/disaster relief, natural resource management, as well as science and technology.

The Ministers reaffirmed the vital role that the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum plays in strengthening the participants’ collective capability to meet challenges to regional security. They pledged to sustain ongoing, multilateral interaction between senior representatives from the United States and the GCC countries as a complement to the strong bilateral ties than underlie our close partnership.