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What Russia Can Do to Bridge Saudi-Iranian Differences

As more and more differences emerge between Saudi Arabia and the United States, it is time for Moscow and Riyadh to intensify their relations.

The Doha negotiations on freezing oil output failed because participants concentrated on prices, neglecting diplomacy, but as new negotiations are being prepared, Russia can play a vital role in bridging differences between the key stakeholders, believes Valdai Club expert Professor Joseph Mifsud, Director of the London Academy of Diplomacy.

The fact that not enough diplomacy has been put in the preparation for the Doha meeting torpedoed the meeting itself, he told valdaiclub.com on the sidelines of the presentation of the “Global Energy: 2010-2015” research paper in Moscow.

“I think most of the preparation has been done on figures, on the marketing part, not on the relations, first of all, between the people who were going to be attending the meeting, and, secondly, the countries and the geostrategic positioning of these countries. So, there was a dichotomy between what the countries were thinking and what the markets were saying,” Professor Mifsud stressed.

Due to the lack of diplomatic preparation the whole meeting looked like the countries involved “were going for an exam without having studied what the questions are going to be asked,” he added.

“One of the interesting things is, I believe, the way that other countries who were not involved in that meeting had a say in what was happening there,” the scholar added, referring to the United States and the European Union.

“We have to be very careful. The new meeting, which will be held in June, needs to be prepared in a different way,” he stressed.

According to Mifsud, the problems of oil prices should be tackled at a broader forum involving both producers and consumers. “The conference on energy does not only belong to people who produce energy, but also to the people who consume energy,” he said. “The forum of producers and consumers has never actually happened. If I had to put something on the agenda of the new UN Secretary General, whoever he or she might be, it would be a global energy forum,” he pointed out.

Addressing the Saudi-Iranian disagreement over freezing oil output, which was one of the most important reasons for the failure of the Doha summit, Mifsud said Russia could play a role in bridging their differences. “I know Russia quite well and I know the diplomatic strength of this country,” he said. “From the vibes that I’m hearing – and I’m hearing vibes from the two sides, both Iran and Saudi Arabia – I think it is a good time for Russia to act as a bridge.”

“It might be a very small success, but it would be a good sign of opening up, he went on to say. “I know that the two sides are keen to listen. The whole situation in the United States is very ‘in the air’ at the moment because of the elections and the nominations, while the EU is embroiled in a huge problem: Brexit and the whole migration issue,” Mifsud stressed.

As more and more differences emerge between Saudi Arabia and the United States, it is time for Moscow and Riyadh to intensify their relations, Mifsud believes. After Russia brought Iran in from the cold, scoring a major diplomatic success, it should try and take Saudi Arabia on board, he said. “I feel there is a taste for this relationship to develop between the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia,” the scholar concluded.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.