The United States and the six countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, recently convened their Working Group on Iran at the GCC’s headquarters in Riyadh.
The meeting took place November 17, 12 days before negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries were scheduled to resume on a mutual return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. In a joint statement, the GCC and the United States “welcomed the upcoming seventh round of JCPOA negotiations in Vienna and called for an urgent mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA that would help pave the way for inclusive diplomatic efforts to address all issues that are necessary to ensure sustainable safety, security and prosperity in the region.”
The United States and the GCC noted that “Iran’s nuclear program is of grave concern, as Iran has taken steps for which it has no civilian need but that would be important to a nuclear weapons program and called for Iran to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.” They also discussed Iran’s dangerous support for armed militias across the region and condemned “a range of aggressive and dangerous Iranian policies, including the proliferation and direct use of advanced ballistic missiles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).”
The United States and the GCC agreed “Iran has a better alternative” to these escalations and observed Iran “can contribute to a more secure and stable region.” Members of the GCC described their efforts to build diplomatic channels with Iran and expressed the hope that over time these regional diplomatic efforts would develop to promote peaceful ties.
The United States and the GCC also declared that “deeper economic ties after the lifting of U.S. sanctions under the JCPOA are in the mutual interest of the region.”
A day after the Working Group on Iran meeting, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, along with representatives from the GCC, the E3, Egypt, and Jordan met for discussions in Riyadh. A joint statement from that meeting underscored the benefits that could accrue to the entire Middle East if a mutual return to the JCPOA was implemented, including for the people of Iran.
After the meeting, Special Envoy Malley cautioned in a tweet that there were now “two paths open to Iran: continued nuclear escalation and crisis, or mutual return to the JCPOA, creating opportunities for regional economic and diplomatic ties. Time to choose,” he added, “is short.”