The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has emerged as “a strong alliance capable of facing all kinds of internal or external challenges,” GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani said this week.
The prime objective of the GCC as a bloc now is to work hard to ensure transformation of this regional entity into a strong “GCC Union” and to boost efforts to promote defense and security cooperation further, while forging closer ties in all other fields, he added.
Al-Zayani, who was speaking at a conference at the University of Cambridge, said that the GCC countries have always demonstrated a strong unity and common approach, especially on the events in Bahrain and the current standoff between the United Arab Emirates and Iran. The four-day conference is organized by the Gulf Research Center (GRC) with an aim to provide an academic environment to foster Gulf studies and promote exchange of information among scholars.
The GCC, which has a cumulative population of 50 million, is evolving as a strong regional grouping. The Gulf states have also intensified efforts to promote several initiatives and unify their positions in domains of security, education, research and legislation. They have agreed to expand the Peninsula Shied Force and are working on advance plans that will eventually lead to the creation of a common market and a common monetary union.
Spelling out his vision of the GCC, Al-Zayani said that “the GCC sought to achieve five key strategic objectives, which include protection of the GCC member states against external threats and increasing economic growth as well as maintaining a high level of human development.” The objectives also include “promotion of awareness about risk and disaster management and strengthening international position of the GCC”, said the GCC chief in his speech.
He stressed the importance of cooperation among the Gulf states and with other countries and highlighted efforts made by GCC countries to resolve the crisis in Yemen. He said that the GCC states were certainly conscious of their unique roles, especially in the wake of the dramatic changes and the regional uprisings taking place. To this end, he noted that the GCC countries have affirmed their desire to set up and develop a missile defense shield irrespective of US stand or Iranian objection.
GCC defense ministers agreed at the end of their meeting in Abu Dhabi to complete the studies to set up a missile shield against ballistic missiles. Al-Zayani also reiterated that building a comprehensive plan for a missile defense shield was an important strategy to protect GCC countries and that cooperation on such a plan sends a strong message to both allies and enemies regionally and globally.
The conference at Cambridge brought together a community of scholars and specialists working to broaden the academic literature on the Gulf. “Not only is this a valuable scholarly contribution to the literature on the region but the GRC has further led to increased involvement of people from the region itself,” said a GRC statement released on this occasion. So far, about 35 percent of participants have come from the GCC countries themselves. “We intend to continue to develop this event so that it becomes the key annual meeting for scholars on the Gulf,” said the statement, while referring to the conference.

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