This article deals with the struggle of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in regard of its constitution and international recognition between 1960 and 1965. By examining two major collections of sources, one from the Federal Archives in Switzerland and another published by Anita Burdett with documents from the British administration, the article aims at better understanding three key aspects of the early development of the OEPC. (1) The struggle of OPEC to be recognized as a meaningful entity and to further its negotiating position vis-à-vis the Western states and the oil companies. This was best achieved by conducting a seat agreement in a well-recognized state from within the OECD community of states (Switzerland). A seat agreement was usually accompanied by diplomatic privileges for the agents of the organization and was perceived as a seal of legitimacy for the organization. (2) The strategy of so-called ‘neutral non-recognition’ applied by the Western OECD countries and the private oil industry in response to OPEC’s effort to settle down in Switzerland. This strategy partly originated in and was reinforced by the Swiss refusal to grant said seat agreement to OPEC before 1965. (3) The exploration of the Swiss motives to allow the physical establishment of OPEC in Geneva in 1960 but then to deny the seat agreement and therefore the official recognition of OPEC as an international organization in its own right.

Based on the obtained results, I will argue that OPEC was widely perceived as a threat to the existing order in the oil industry and that official recognition by the Swiss would have enhanced OPECs impact significantly. On the other hand, I will show that Switzerland’s refusal was politically motivated and coordinated with other key stakeholder countries regarding oil interests within the OECD. This allowed the developed countries– especially some host countries of the oil companies– to adopt the policy of neutral non-recognition towards OPEC and thereby hamper its efforts to promote its goals at an international level.