Programme of the 9th Valdai Discussion Club’s Middle East Conference
List of speakers

Programme of the 9th Valdai Discussion Club’s
Middle East Conference
Middle East in a Time of Change: Towards New Stability Architecture

February 17, Monday

09:45 – 10:00 Opening of the Conference

Andrey BYSTRITSKIY, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club 

Vitaly NAUMKIN, President, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Science; Full Member, Russian Academy of Sciences

Igor MORGULOV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

10:00 - 11:30 Session 1. Middle East – Future Oriented. Two Perspectives

As political transformation, which has changed the face of the Middle East, continues to gain pace, the world is anxiously anticipating new cataclysms. According to many politicians, a new series of perturbations brewing up in the region can affect the very foundations of the established order. Disunity, which has become a common disease in Middle Eastern societies, hinders their consolidation even on the most vital issues. At the same time, one cannot help but see the global context behind these developments, which allows us to draw parallels between changes in the region and beyond.

Is it possible to talk about uniqueness and singularity of the turbulent Middle Eastern processes? Will they affect all countries or will some of them be able to preserve their fundamentals? How can the main trends in regional development be identified?


Ali ALAHMAD, Political and public figure, Syria

Vitaly NAUMKIN, President, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Science; Full Member, Russian Academy of Sciences


Hrair BALIAN, Director, Conflict Resolution Program, The Carter Center

12:00 – 13:30 Session 2. Conflicts and Mediators

Despite the tremendous efforts of the governments of Middle Eastern states, global actors and international organizations, the level of conflict in the region is showing an upward trend. It is impossible to name almost any conflict situation that could be successfully “resolved”; moreover, new fault lines have appeared. The positions of global and regional players, increasingly intervening in conflicts in individual countries, including through the use of military force, are becoming more irreconcilable. Many politicians question the effectiveness of international law and the institution of international mediators. With regard to the Syrian crisis, Russia has shown the ability to take bold and unconventional actions that have led to a marked reduction in the level of violence.

Why does conflict continue to erode the region like a cancerous tumour? Why is the solution of the Palestinian issue embedded in UN Security Council resolutions becoming less and less tangible? What are the lessons that the global community should learn from local crises?


Amre MOUSSA, Secretary General, League of Arab States (2001-2011)

Mehdi SANAEI, Senior Advisor to Iranian Foreign Minister

Nir ROSEN, Syria and Iraq Advisor, Humanitarian Dialogue Centre

Mohamed ELJARH, Co-Founder and CEO, Libya Outlook for Research and Consulting


Fyodor LUKYANOV, Research Director, Foundation for Development and Support of theValdai Discussion Club

14:30 – 16:00 Session 3. Arabs and Three Non-Arabs States

Israel, Iran, and Turkey in the Middle East play a special, unequivocal role. Differing fundamentally from their Arab neighbours in cultural, ethno-confessional and political relations, they are forced to face more and more similar internal and external challenges and threats.

With the ongoing transformation of the region, questions arise again and again: what place will these non-Arab states hold in it, how can the legitimate interests of each of them be determined, how can the vicious circle of the security dilemma be broken, how will the relations of these states with the Arab world be built?


Galip DALAY, Research Director, Al Sharq Forum; Mercator Fellow, German Institute for International and Security Affairs

Zvi MAGEN, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Tel Aviv University

Ebtesam AL-KETBI, Founder and President, Emirates Policy Center

Dorothée SCHMID, Senior Research Fellow, Head of Ifri’s Turkey and Middle East Program


Irina ZVYAGELSKAYA, Head, Center for Middle East Studies, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences

16:30 – 18:00 Session 4. Persian Gulf: War and Peace

The situation in the Gulf is changing paradoxically. A dangerous increase in tension, threatening large-scale clashes, unexpectedly led to the opposite results. The probabillty of war has become so great and its possible consequences are so obvious that the desire to prevent further aggravation has manifested itself as a significant trend in international relations in the region.

Will a demonstration of military force become an additional argument that can move the question of creating a security system in the Gulf from a dead point? What are the prospects and possible channels for establishing relations between the states located here? What do they expect from external forces?


Omar MOHAMMED, Founder, Mosul Eye

Amal ABOU ZEID, Advisor to the President Lebanon; Member of the Lebanese Parliament, Free Patriotic Movement (2016–2018)

Daniel LEVY, President U.S. / Middle East Project


Andrey KORTUNOV, Director General, Russian International Affairs Council


February 18, Tuesday

10:30 – 12:30 Session 5. Is the Arab Street Making a Comeback?

A new wave of protest sentiment has swept the countries of the Middle East. Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, Iran have faced large-scale manifestations of popular discontent. Unresolved socio-economic problems, corruption, poor governance, fear of long overdue reforms, the irremovability of the elites, the lack of prospects and social elevators for young people brought people to the streets again. In many cases, the demonstrations were hardly peaceful.

Can protests be considered a direct continuation of the “Arab spring” or do they signal a new stage in the march for justice? What has become the main agenda? Is the current “spring” exclusively Arab? Will the young angry generation become a source of constant internal tension in the Middle East?


Yahia H. ZOUBIR, Senior Professor of International Studies; Director of Research in Geopolitics, KEDGE Business School, Visiting Fellow at the Brooking Doha Center

Joost HILTERMANN, Programme Director, Middle East and North Africa, International Crisis Group

Mohammed IHSAN, Senior Professor, College of War, King’s College London

Anwar ABDULHADE, Director, Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization 

Raghida DERGHAM, Founder and Executive Chairman, Beirut Institute


Ivan TIMOFEEV, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club

13:30 – 15:30 Session 6. Scenarios for the Future

Today we can talk about a variety of medium-term scenarios for the development of the Middle East. Maybe in just a few years we will see a new region, actively developing, recovering from bloody conflicts, a region with strengthened states and a powerful civil society. But maybe what lies ahead is only more conflict engulfing new states. Finally, there is the likelihood of further fragmentation of the region, where growth zones will coexist with territories of increasing anarchy and chaos. Quo vadis, Middle East?


Randa SLIM, Senior Fellow and Director, Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program, Middle East Institute

Ahmad MAJDALANI, Minister of Social Development of the State of Palestine

Mustafa AYDIN, President, International Relations Council of Turkey

Vasily KUZNETSOV, Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences


Maria KHODYNSKAYA-GOLENISHCHEVA, Senior Advisor, Foreign Policy Planning Department, Russian Foreign Ministry

15:30 – 16:00 Closing of the Conference

Andrey BYSTRITSKIY, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club 

Vitaly NAUMKIN, President, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Science; Full Member, Russian Academy of Sciences