CIRSD and AGDA hold a Discussion Panel on the Middle East

The Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD), in collaboration with the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy (AGDA), hosted a panel discussion entitled “Middle East: Rethinking the Quest for Security.” The event marked the launch of the latest issue of CIRSD’s flagship publication Horizons, which focuses on the most pressing developments in the Middle East.

Moderated by Khalifa al Suwaidi, a Research Fellow at AGDA, the panel featured remarks from CIRSD President Vuk Jeremic, AGDA Director General Nickolay Mladenov, and Ambassador Nabeela Al-Mulla, a seasoned Kuwaiti diplomat and Distinguished Lecturer at the American University of Kuwait.

Discussing the impact of global geopolitical trends on the Middle East, Jeremic compared geopolitical cycles to economic ones, noting their tendency to last much longer. He emphasized the prolonged geopolitical recession currently resulting in various conflicts around the world. Jeremic highlighted the complexity of Middle Eastern conflicts, suggesting that while the end of the war in Ukraine might be envisioned—or perhaps predicted—the resolution of Middle Eastern conflicts will remain elusive for the foreseeable future.

Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jeremic outlined three potential scenarios: a continuation of the status quo epitomized by the “no solution” practice, a one-state solution, and a two-state solution. He argued that the “no solution” scenario is no longer so viable after the Hamas attacks of October 7th, 2023, and warned against a non-democratic or exclusionary one-state solution. A one-state solution, which would likely materialize in the form of a Greater Israel, would effectively cease being a Jewish State—with roughly equal numbers of Israelis and Palestinians. Such a state could become strikingly non-democratic or be “a state without Palestinians, which would be an abdominal outcome that the whole world must ensure does not happen,” Jeremic elaborated. Jeremic said that what is left is optimally a two-state solution, urging timely action to prevent further escalation. He expressed skepticism about the role of Hamas in achieving such an outcome, nor was he optimistic about the Palestinian Authority delivering statehood to the Palestinians, or such a deal being made under the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jeremic emphasized the need for regional and international cooperation, stressing that China is likely to remain an essential actor in the region, especially after its success in brokering a Saudi-Iranian deal in 2023. However, comprehensive peace solutions, Jeremic believes, will need to have regional ownership—certainly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also on other Middle Eastern issues.

Ambassador Nabeela Al-Mulla emphasized the longstanding challenge of achieving peace in the Holy Land, a task that has eluded the United Nations since 1948. She highlighted the immediate need to address the suffering in Gaza, as well as the broader issues faced by Palestinians in the occupied territories of the West Bank and within Israel. Al-Mulla stressed the importance of not losing faith in and adhering to the rule of law and international institutions, advocating for decisions by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to be supplemented. Commenting on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, which was brought before the ICJ in December 2023, Al-Mulla said that the decision was “made out of belief”, due to South Africa’s deep sympathy for the oppressed.

She discussed the significance of regional cooperation, suggesting that solutions to contemporary conflicts would increasingly require “coalitions of the willing”—albeit not in the Western sense of the word—to alleviate hardship and manage security issues. Al-Mulla praised the collaboration between CIRSD and AGDA, calling for similar partnerships with South African and Indian think tanks and stressing the need for the development of closer ties with the Global South. She also highlighted the importance of perceptions in international relations, urging powerful states to visibly support humanitarian efforts and criticize actions that exacerbate suffering. “When we look at those who are strong and have their inroads in the region, it is vital to see how they are behaving in certain critical moments. Even if you are pursuing quiet diplomacy, we have to see you do certain things. If we don’t see you limiting or cutting the relationship with Israel during these times of immense suffering for the Gazans, this will raise questions. If we see you withholding money from humanitarian relief, we’ll also have questions,” Al-Mulla concluded.

Nickolay Mladenov addressed the need for a comprehensive framework to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, noting obstacles within both Palestinian and Israeli communities. He emphasized that the right of Israel to exist does not negate the right of Palestinians to statehood. Mladenov underscored the pivotal role of Gulf countries in discreetly and effectively negotiating long-term solutions, with most having built up unique negotiation styles and profiles. Most notably, he praised the success of the UAE, which has already earned a reputation of consensus builder.

Much like his interlocutors, Mladenov advocated for faith in international institutions, stressing that any agreements reached in the Gulf should be brought to the United Nations for international legitimacy. He highlighted the increasing responsibility and influence of middle powers in conflict resolution and the importance of these nations in fostering global cooperation. He added that it will also be up to the middle powers “to stitch the world back together,” rather than exploit their newfound roles for creating new avenues of confrontation.

The panel discussion in Abu Dhabi attracted a distinguished capacity audience, including diplomats from the Gulf region, international civil society members, journalists, business executives, university professors, and AGDA students. The event provided a platform for in-depth dialogue on security and peace in the Middle East, emphasizing the need for innovative and collaborative approaches to address the region’s complex web of conflict.

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