What are the missing elements in the diplomatic efforts in the Middle East?

Round Table

04 December 2012

 London, UK

Bilateral and international diplomacy has failed so far in bringing the Palestinian- Israeli conflict -one of the longest standing conflicts in the world, to an end. Over 60 years have passed and still there is no agreement between the two parties.

The Palestinian Authority attempted a declaration of an independent state at the United Nations
last year. This can be explained as a deep frustration if not complete hopelessness regarding the
prospects for a negotiated resolution of the conflict.

  • How did it get here? What has led the Palestinians to give up on diplomacy?
  • What explains the total failure of the most recent chapter in the efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli dispute?
  • What has led to the absence of any action plans or proposals from the greater powers, UN and the EU to solve the conflict during the last 4 years?
  • The recent events in Gaza strip are inevitable outcomes of the current situation which cannot continue for the sake of security and prosperity of Palestinians and Israelis
  • What are the tangible steps towards a viable two-state solution and a secure Israel vision?
  • What lessons can be learnt from the Oslo agreement?  International diplomacy is still failing to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme. Series of negotiations have not progressed towards a negotiated agreement. Heavy sanctions have being imposed on Iran and tension has grown between the west and Iran in and the resolution seems far.
“America wants to solve this problem through diplomacy, And there is time and space to do so, but the time is not unlimited”
President Obama, UN General Assembly, 25th September2012.
  • Is a diplomatic solution a realistic approach at this stage?
  • What are the avenues to be explored that can resolve this issue?

In Syria, with the involvement of all five permanent members of the Security Council, international diplomacy is still struggling to even convince the parties to sit around the negotiations table. Anan’s plan has fallen and Mr. Ibrahimi was appointed as the UN envoy in Syria. Exchange of accusations amongst the five permanent members of the Security Council continues and the conflict continues with thousands losing their lives every month.

On the other side of the region, Diplomacy has succeeded to avoid a similar scenario of Syria in Yemen. The transitional plan by the council of Gulf States led into a less peaceful transition of power. With no lack of initiatives, the Syrian conflict is repelling any diplomatic efforts.

The round table was a consultation of experts to look into potential scenarios and identify opportunities of diplomatic resolutions for the three conflicts in the Middle East.

Speaker quotes:

“We are talking about a wide area of instability, in the Middle East, in North Africa and beyond, which has impact on all our lives and the security and well being of all of our countries. So it is in our interest to encourage progress, stability and economic development. Clearly there is a focus on Iran, Syria and the peace process between Israel and Palestine. As a member of the European Parliament I would like to see the EU using the financial resources that it disposes in this area to greater effect. I don’t see them using its leverage, which it has through these resources, in the best possible political way.”

Geoffrey Van Orden, Member of European Parliament, Conservative Party

“So far, the sanctions against Iran have not been effective. The 27 members of the EU should work on a common platform on Iran. Similarly in Syria, where regime change is definitely the goal, EU members, and particularly France, Germany and the UK, should find a common path for action. In the Israel-Palestine peace process the ‘two-state solution’ is dead, and each side has justifiable concerns that date back hundreds of years.”

Thomas Docherty, Member of UK Parliament, Labour Party

“Russia’s goal is to solve crises. In Iran, our aim is diplomatic engagement, more than isolation. The more the pressure increases through sanctions, the more the Iranian regime interprets it as a sign that the goal is not nuclear non-proliferation but regime change. In Syria, Russia is trying to encourage talks in place of military intervention against Assad. International players should try and persuade the opposition that they will not win alone, militarily. In the case of Israel-Palestine Russia is cautiously optimistic, since both the coming elections in Israel and the UN recognition of Palestine upgraded status should encourage moderate voices.”

Ivan Volodin, Head of Foreign Policy, The Russian Embassy, London

“Certain people in Iran and other countries in the region have no qualms about pushing a sectarian rift that can be exploited. We are in a period of Sunni revival. No solution is readily available in the case of Syria, where there is no immediate diplomatic space available. Creating this space through very intense channels of communication should be a priority. In the case of Israel-Palestine, the bottom line is that Israel has no interest in a ‘two-state solution’. The other aspect that people might fail to appreciate is that Arafat use to know how to make life difficult for Arab countries. Instead, the current Palestinian leadership is rather convenient for all.”

Daniel Levy, Director of the MENA Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations

“If the EU wants to maintain its credibility in Egypt and in the whole MENA region, it has to back up its words with actions. It cannot stand by and conduct its foreign policy through statements, but needs to become more assertive by building coalitions with like-minded players. While working with other countries the EU has to retain its independence. Only by doing that it can remain a valuable and credible player, vis-à-vis the most difficult challenges of our times.”

Marietje Schaake, Member of European Parliament

“Discussions of diplomacy surrounding the Middle East are essential because at the moment, with the numerous conflicts and potential conflicts, the absence of successful diplomacy has exacerbated the situation and poses major risks to the regional players and outside international actors. Innovative solutions in creative diplomacy are much needed.”

Chris Doyle, Director of The Council of Arab-British Understanding


Andrew Wilson, Sky News Presenter

Chris Doyle, Director of The Council of Arab-British Understanding

Daniel Levy, Director of the ME & NA Programme, European Council

Geoffrey Van Orden, Member of European Parliament, Conservative Party

Ivan Volodin, Head of Foreign Policy, The Russian Embassy, London

Thomas Docherty, Member of UK Parliament, Labour Party

Marietje Schaake, Member of European Parliament


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