World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East

Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East
by Rene Wadlow

In a 26 June 2018 address to the United Nations Security Council, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General, reviewed the conflict situations in the Middle East - its profound divisions, troubling currents and the tragic shredding of its diverse religious, ethnic and cultural fabric. As he noted "In Syria, civilians have borne a litany of atrocities or more than seven years of conflict: sieges, starvation, indiscriminate attacks, the use of chemical weapons, exile and forced displacement, sexual violence, torture, detention and enforced disappearances." He called for renewed support for his Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, on the Syrian conflict and possible Geneva meetings.

Likewise, he called for support for the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths. What was new in the Secreatary-General's presentation was to highlight the Helsinki process as a possible for the Middle East. He said "During the Cold War, ideological rivals found ways to talk and cooperate despite their deep divides, for example through the Helsinki process. I do not see why countries of the region cannot find a similar platform to come together, drawing experience from one another and enhancing opportunities for possible political, environmental, socio-economic or security cooperation."

The Association of World Citizens has for a good number of years proposed a Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East with full recognition of all States in the region with steps toward a Middle East Common Market and cooperation on water issues. Such a Middle East Conference is based on the Helsinki Conference of 1973 -1975.

When the first phase of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe concluded in Helsinki in July 1973, some saw that seeds to end the Cold War had been planted, but that these seeds would have to be watered and carefully protected. The Helsinki Final Act was still unwritten and even the issues to be discussed had not yet been set out beyond a rather general and vague sentiment that military security and military confidence-building steps were important.

The negotiators moved to Geneva, Switzerland and discussed from 18 September until the eve of the Summit to be again held in Helsinki on 1 August 1975. As midnight of the deadline for agreeing on the text of the Helsinki Final Act was approaching, the clock in the meeting room was stopped so that the text could be finalized in the agreed time.

There were diplomats from three groups of States: the Western States, the Soviet Union and its allies, the four neutral States and Yugoslavia as "non-aligned". The contribution of the neutral States and of non-governmental organizations is what is lacking in the Middle East case.

The four neutrals: Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria were all "Western" by their value system and had multi-party forms of government, but they were not part of one of the two military alliances. Moreover, all four neutral States had a well-trained diplomatic corps which had participated in difficult negotiations before. They played a mediating role but also championed their own causes. Thus Switzerland pushed the concept of a OSCE Court that could deal with the judicial settlement of disputes. The Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, though little used, is now located in Geneva.

Geneva also had a good number of representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who had consultative status with the United Nations and were concerned with arms control, human rights, conflict resolution and international trade agreements. While there was no formal structure for NGO contributions, through the U.N. there was access to diplomats of the countries involved. Two teaching colleagues of mine at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Jean Siotis and Victor-Yves Ghebali have written good accounts of the Geneva negotiations drawn largely from interviews and the vast number of working papers that were exchanged.(1)
Some seeds for a Middle East version of the Helsinki process were planted but have not yet sprouted. The 1975 Helsinki Final Act ha a chapter entitled "Questions relating to security and cooperation in the Mediterranean."

The link between security in Europe and the Mediterranean has been formalized starting in 1994 with the Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel. It is theoretically possible for leadership from these six States to propose an enlargement. Libya and Lebanon can also be considered "Mediterranean". One could also start with a totally new process - inspired by the example of the Helsinki process but with no organic link.

The neutrals and Yugoslavia, in different ways, played important roles in the Helsinki process. There may be hidden visionaries in the Middle East who could give a start to such a process. Alas, for the moment their voices are mute.
1) See Victor-Yves Ghebali. La diplomatie de la détente. La CSCE d'Helsinki à Vienne (1973-1989) (Bruxelles; Bruylant Editors, 1989)

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN: COVID Contributed To 69,000 Malaria Deaths WHO Finds, Though ‘Doomsday Scenario’ Averted
Disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in considerable increases in malaria cases and deaths between 2019 and 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday... More>>

Save The Children: World Leaders Urged To Halt Escalating Hunger Crisis

A group of 120 non-governmental organisations has joined forces in an open letter calling on world leaders to do more to halt a devastating global hunger crisis as new analysis shows the number of people likely to be in need of humanitarian aid in 2022 could rise by 17%...More>>

WMO: Another La Niña Impacts Temperatures And Precipitation – But Not Climate Change
La Niña has developed for the second consecutive year and is expected to last into early 2022, influencing temperatures and precipitation. Despite the cooling influence of this naturally occurring climate phenomenon, temperatures in many parts of the world are expected to be above average because of the accumulated heat trapped in the atmosphere...

Cook Islands: First COVID Case "historical"

The 10 year old child who provided two ‘weak positive’ covid test results after arriving in Rarotonga last Thursday, has returned a negative result in his latest test. That means he’s not infectious and this is an historical case... More>>

Oxfam: Failure To Vaccinate The World Created Perfect Breeding Ground For Omicron, Say Campaigners

Campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance say the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to openly share their vaccine science and technology and the lack of action from rich countries to ensure access to vaccines globally have created the perfect breeding ground for new variants such as Omicron... More>>

World Food Programme: Millions More In Need Of Food Assistance As A Direct Result Of Conflict In Northern Ethiopia

The number of people in need of humanitarian food assistance across northern Ethiopia has grown to an estimated 9.4 million as a direct result of ongoing conflict, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today... More>>