The first conference on the Gulf federation in Abu Dhabi, 1968
After Labour MP Goronwy Roberts
informed Sheikh Zayed of the news of British withdrawal, the nine Persian Gulf sheikhdoms attempted to form a federation of Arab emirates. The federation was first proposed in February 1968 when the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai met in the desert location of Argoub El Sedirah, and agreed on the principle of Union. They announced their intention to form a coalition, extending an invitation to other Persian Gulf states
to join. Later that month, in a summit meeting attended by the rulers of Bahrain, Qatar and the Trucial Coast, the government of Qatar proposed the formation of a federation of Arab Emirates to be governed by a higher council composing of nine rulers. This proposal was accepted and a declaration of union was approved. There were, however, several disagreements between the rulers on matters such as the location of the capital, the drafting of the constitution and the distribution of ministries.
Further political issues surfaced as a result of Bahrain attempting to impose a leading role in the nine-state union, as well as the emergence of a number of differences between the rulers of the Trucial Coast, Bahrain and Qatar, the latter two being in a long-running dispute
over the Hawar Islands
. While Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Rashid, had a strong connection to the Qatari ruling family, including the royal intermarriage
of his daughter with the son of the Qatari emir, the relationship between Abu Dhabi and Dubai (also cemented by intermarriage, Rashid's wife was a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family) was to endure the break-up of the talks with both Bahrain and Qatar. Overall, there were only four meetings between the nine rulers. The last such meeting, which took place in Abu Dhabi, saw Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
elected as the first president of the federation. There were stalemates on numerous issues during the meeting, including the position of vice-president, the defence of the federation, and whether a constitution was required. Read more...