Russia and Global Security Risks
Pandemic and Politics: How Coronavirus Created a New Dimension of the Middle East Crisis
List of speakers

On May 19, the Valdai Discussion Club held an online round-table discussion, titled “Combating COVID-19 in Conflict: The Syrian Experience”. Ivan Timofeev, programme director of the Club, moderated the event.

Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Valdai Club Foundation, in his opening remarks, noted that although the coronavirus did not bring anything new, it revealed a number of important trends. How exactly these trends manifested themselves in Syria was the subject of discussion.

Philip Spoerri, Head of Delegation in Syria of the International Committee of the Red Cross, spoke about how his organisation is struggling with COVID-19 and what problems it is facing. Gennady Gatilov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office and Other International Organisations in Geneva, raised the question of the cynical use of the pandemic by Western countries for political purposes and the impact of sanctions on Syria’s ability to withstand coronavirus.

Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC Regional Director of Operations for Middle East and North Africa region, said that the COVID-19 crisis in the Middle East is only part of a broader regional crisis and cannot be reduced to a purely medical dimension. The task of humanitarian workers is to gain time so that politicians can do their job, he stressed. Carboni paid special attention to the economic problems of Syria, and in particular to the problem of lack of investment. Ali al-Ahmed, a Syrian politician and public figure, developed this theme by visually describing the catastrophic situation in which the Syrian economy and healthcare are.

Alexander Aksenyonok, Vice President of the Russian International Affairs Council, paid special attention in his speech to the measures taken by the Syrian government to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the crisis, and proposed a number of necessary practical steps. He also returned to the issue of sanctions and the role of Western countries in what is happening. At the end of the event, participants answered questions from media representatives.