The Future of the Middle East: In Search of a Common Dream


The final session of the Valdai Club’s Middle East conference, titled "The future of the Middle East: In search of a common dream", was attended by Ilyas Umakhanov, Deputy Chairperson of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Amal Abou Zeid, Member of the Lebanese Parliament, Free Patriotic Movement, John Bell, Director of the Middle East and Mediterranean Programme, Toledo International Centre for Peace in Madrid, and Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative (PNI) party.

Moderator of the 8th Session, Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club Fyodor Lukyanov said, that the world is entering a new period, where the ideology again becomes relevant. The world is tired of centrism and the "golden mean", "the only correct model", there is a search for new ideological approaches and concepts for harmonious and stable development of civilization.

According to Ilyas Umakhanov, the desire to "find a dream" became a worldwide. He noted the unfortunate increase of distrust, conflicts, often turning into real wars, and expressed his conviction that to settle them and stabilize the situation are important not only to the governments, the official authorities of states, but also alternative centers of power. The "Export of democracy" policy has demonstrated its failure and led to a considerable number of problems in the Middle East. The basis of ideological and geopolitical platform of Middle Eastern countries, according to Umahanov, is the need to preserve the statehood, national identity and the joint fight against terrorism, as well as ensuring the proper functioning of state institutions. We must not forget the crucial role of the international community and the Arab League, as well as the conflict resolution mechanisms, proposed, in particular, by the Russian diplomacy.

Amal Abou Zeid in his speech stressed, that the Middle East is not a separate element of life, taken out of the international community, and the processes there affect the rest of the world, especially due to the development of technologies. The expert believes that Syria today is on the brink of destruction. He urged to take into account the socio-cultural features of the region's states in the settlement of crisis situations. According to Abou Zeid, to restore stability in the region a leading role of Egypt should be returned. It is also necessary to support a free Arab thought and develop a plan of the international community's assistance to the integrational processes in the region. In this context, the expert also praised the positive role of Russia in the Middle East and the effectiveness of its policy.

Mustafa Barghouti focused the audience's attention on the main challenges facing the Middle East. Among them, he highlighted the problem of young people, first, the low level of education and high unemployment rate, and second, the lack of opportunities for free economic development of the Middle Eastern countries, exacerbated by corruption and monopolization of national economies. According to Barghouti, it is necessary to ensure good governance and comprehensive economic integration. In addition, he expressed concern about the aggressive and inhuman Israeli policy toward Palestine.

John Bell urged not to stand on the position of dreamers, but rather to look at the situation from the perspective of realism. He offered to consider the problems of the Middle East from top downward, dividing them into separate components. The difference in approaches to solve conflicts often causes a lack of confidence among states. Bell believes that the problems of Iraq and Syria are not to be resolved in the foreseeable future. He also sees the possibility of an escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. According to him, the leaders of the Middle East together with the international community have to formulate new creative and emotional, rather than ideological approaches to solve the Middle East problems.

During the dialogue with the audience the experts recognized the important role of education in the region and the lack of attention to this problem, discussed the phenomenon of social democracy in the Middle East, and the problem of Shiite political Islam.

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