President Barack Obama met with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) over the past two days to discuss a wide range of topics from defense to security collaboration in the Middle East.
Established in 1981, the GCC was formed to foster scientific and technical progress, unify and strengthen security forces, and promote economic development as well as encourage private sector cooperation in the region.
The Summit began yesterday with meetings at the White House, and continued over the course of today with talks at the Camp David presidential retreat between GCC member countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
While issues involving the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qa’ida, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon were discussed, most analysts were eager to see how the United States would assuage the concerns of the Gulf states surrounding the nuclear deal negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. The GCC’s chief concern was that the easing of economic sanctions too quickly would overly empower Iran and jeopardize the stability of the region.
Despite concerns that the productivity of the Summit would be clouded by snubs from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, who chose not to send their most senior officials, several concrete steps to improve the stability of the region and address those concerns were taken. The United States strengthened its security commitment to the region by agreeing to expedite arms transfers to the region, forming a new partnership to improve counterrorism and missile defense efforts, as well as staging a large-scale military exercise against terror and cyber attacks. In addition, the United States and GCC member states agreed to “work together to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and stressed the need for Iran to...take practical steps to build trust and resolve its differences with neighbors by peaceful means.”
In terms of Syria, all of the members affirmed that “Assad has lost all legitimacy and has no role in Syria’s future.” Beyond supporting increased efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” terrorist groups in Syria, the GCC also expressed a “deep concern over the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and condemned the prevention of aid distribution to the civilian population by the Assad regime or any other party.”
In an effort to establish peace in the Middle East, the group underscored the importance of Israel and Palestine to urgently “demonstrate—through policies and actions—genuine advancement of a two-state solution.” In addition, Summit participants agreed to continue with their commitments for Gaza’s reconstruction.
Finally, Summit participants described their concern surrounding the delayed election of a new president of Lebanon. The group called on “all parties to strengthen Lebanese state institutions” and “emphasized the critical importance of Lebanon’s parliament in moving forward to elect a president of the Lebanese Republic.”
The Summit concluded with an agreement for the GCC and United States to meet again in a similar format in 2016 to advance and develop the strategic partnerships that have been announced over the course of the Summit.
****Ari Zoldan is on assignment in Washington, DC. Alex Hantman contributed to this article.
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