The stable development of the Middle East requires a coherent internationally-recognised base for the emerging security and interaction system. Apparently, it is necessary to begin the difficult, but inevitable work of preparing a “new Madrid”, which would develop new “rules of the game,” writes Andrei Baklanov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Diplomats’ Association.
Today, many politicians and experts agree that the agreements between the UAE and Israel create a completely new situation in the Middle East, in spheres including politics, trade, the economy and investment. At the same time, what is happening now prompts a different look at how it is necessary to resolve the contradictions which exist between the states of the region.
The moment is a turning point, but such periods have happened in the Middle East before.
Are there any regular features we should expect regarding how the new realities will evolve and predetermine further directions of development?
According to my observations, a certain “cyclical” evolution of the situation has developed in the Middle East — every twenty to thirty years, there are events that radically change the rules of the game and the balance of power there.
In 1947-1949 Israel was established, followed by the first Arab-Israeli war. The Middle East split into two irreconcilable camps — Arabs and Israelis, and each of them tried to find powerful external sponsors. A significant part of the territory allocated by the UN for the creation of a Palestinian state ended up in the hands of Israel. The agreements to end hostilities between Israel and the Arabs have not been converted into peace treaties.
Twenty years later, an unstable peace, interrupted by clashes on the borders of Israel with the Arab states, developed into a large-scale “six-day” war in 1967, which created a new reality.
Israel “augmented” itself by occupying new lands, including the Sinai Peninsula, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
The UN, with great difficulty, worked out a scheme for overcoming the consequences of the conflict. UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967 was adopted. This resolution established that Israel must return the lands it seized in 1967, the Arabs were to agree to the peaceful existence of Israel as part of the Middle East community of states, that is, “peace in exchange for land”. At the same time, the original scheme of partitioning Palestine was losing its relevance, since the new UN decision only made mention of the land seized by Israel in 1967. In other words, the Palestinians sacrificed a significant part of the territory they previously claimed in order to solve the strategic task of creating their own state.
But this formula could not be realized due to the contradictions between the Arabs and Israel. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty providing for the return of Sinai was viewed by the countries of the region as a separate deal, an isolated case.
It took two decades for the parties to realize the need to make compromises. An “exchange” followed: recognition at the turn of the 1990s by the Israelis of the PLO and the recognition by the Palestinians of the de facto existence of the State of Israel.
In September — October 1991, the Madrid conference made an unprecedented attempt to establish the Arab-Israeli peace process in a bilateral and multilateral format. Multilateral negotiating groups on economic cooperation, security, water, environment and refugees were established at a meeting of the participants in the peace process in Moscow in January 1992.
“Under the umbrella” of these negotiating formats, a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was concluded, and Palestinian self-government bodies were created on the western bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip. But things did not go further; the peace process began to “fizzle out”.
At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, there were signs of mutual interest in establishing contacts between the Israelis and a number of Arab states.
However, the turbulent events of 2011 — the Arab Spring, the emergence of ISIS and other cataclysms — reduced the urgency of the process of rapprochement between Israel and the Arab states.
Events have clearly “outgrown” this institutional framework. Now the formula “peace for peace” is being implemented, while it is assumed that other issues, including the final territorial delimitation, will be resolved as the confidence building measures in the region strengthen.
However, the stable development of the Middle East requires a coherent internationally-recognised base for the emerging security and interaction system.
Apparently, it is necessary to begin the difficult, but inevitable work of preparing a “new Madrid”, which would develop new “rules of the game”.
Today, the Middle East is essentially the only major region in the world that still lacks any region-wide structures.
Europe has the European Union, Africa has the African Union and a system of sub-regional associations, Latin America and Asia also have systemic regional and sub-regional associations. The Middle East should “catch up” with other regions, strive to form common “regulators” that stimulate trade, economic and other ties.
Perhaps a start in this work could be a return to the idea of creating, on a regional basis, multilateral groups involving the Middle East countries and the most important states in the world.
The first attempt to form multilateral working groups was made in January 1992 at an international meeting in Moscow.
It seems that a new type of relationship, which is formed through the conclusion of agreements similar to those between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, can give impetus to the dynamic development of the region, including the introduction of advanced technologies. This, in turn, will allow for a new, more favourable environment to be established for resolving the existing problems of the Middle East, which the present generations have inherited from the difficult past.
In other words, it would be useful for us to prepare and hold a meeting similar to the Madrid Conference in order to determine new rules of conduct for the states of the region, and create prerequisites for cooperation between the countries of the Middle East.