Mideast Valdai Conference, Session 7: Towards a New Regional Security System in the Middle East
Moscow, Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall
List of speakers

The seventh and final session of the 5th Valdai Discussion Club Middle East Dialogue "Towards a New Regional Security System in the Middle East" was an attempt to predict the development of the situation in the region after the entry into force of the cease-fire agreement in Syria, jointly developed by Russia and the United States.

According to Andrei Baklanov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Association of Russian Diplomats, the ISIS example shows that all the hot spots are deeply interconnected due to the high level of integration of criminal groups in the new system of globalization. Many coalitions against ISIS are significantly less efficient than co-ordinated actions of terrorists, which are part of the same organization.

The proof of this thesis, according to Fyodor Lukyanov, Research Director of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, is the ad hoc group on arms control and regional security in the Middle East, established in 1992 under the co-chairmanship of Russia and the United States. The group was able to carry out its tasks successfully even in the hardest time for the newly independent Russia. Undoubtedly the success in this regard was also the joint work on the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, carried out by Russia and the United States, as well as meetings of the International Group on Iran's nuclear dossier.
Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt (1997-2001), to Israel (2001-2005), Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, expressed full solidarity with the thesis about the possibility and the need for coordinated actions to combat instability in the Middle East. According to him, the totality of the region's problems, such as lack of security, mass unemployment, need to reform health and education, must be resolved simultaneously without separation of more and less important aspects. The situation in the region does not depend solely on the questions of war and peace, it also is under serious influence of economic and social processes.

Bakhtiar Amin, chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation for Future (2013-2015), stressed the need for a general system of regional security on the example of the Kurdish problem, one of the most destabilizing factors in the region. In XX century, the Kurds have been deprived of the possibility of ethnic free expression, it was the time of the apartheid policy and national cleansings, massive chemical attacks. The inability of regional institutions to cope with the problems naturally led to the intervention of external players. Countries of the region for too long remained aloof from the solution of their own problems, and at this point the only way to resolve the pressing conflicts is to be actively involved in the creation of a new security system without leaving the design of its architecture at the mercy of external actors.

Middle East problems became problems of the entire international community as a result of the increasing globalization. The opinion about the role of the European Union in regional stabilization was expressed by Daniel Levy, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), as well as by François Burgat, Senior Research Fellow at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

One of the major problems, said Daniel Levy, is the lack of integration of the region and a combined narrative to find common ways to resolve the crisis. Europe, which has experience in creating a security system, should help the Middle Eastern countries in the development of security strategies. Small, gradual steps to stabilize the situation with presence of additional possibilities of crisis settlement could be the only way out of the situation.

Professor François Burgat urged to identify the causes of mass radicalization of the population in the Middle East, despite the fact that until recently this phenomenon was quite fragmented. Politicians have to be extremely careful in the choice of terminology. So, any similarities between Sunni and terrorism are unacceptable. Systematic work to prevent internecine divisions should become one of the priorities at the negotiating table.

Thus, the pursuit of extra-regional forces to overplay each other in terms of creating suitable political systems in the Middle East is unacceptable and contributes to the escalation of the conflict. The existing positive experience in creation of institutions for development of settlement strategies should become the basis for future system of relations.

During the session, Fyodor Lukyanov presented the book "Threat from the East. How the World Will Respond to the ISIS Threat", specially published for the conference. It contains Russia's first in-depth study of the Islamic State phenomenon. The book is co-written by several experts and examines key issues such as the causes of ISIS, threats forecast, as well as the possible development scenarios.