Pandemic as a Chance for a ‘Reset’: The Middle East Case

On Wednesday, May 13, a meeting of the Beirut Institute Summit e-Policy Circle 2 took place in a webinar format. The theme of the event was how to rethink stability, especially in the Middle East, in light of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was organised and moderated by Executive Chairman of the Beirut Institute and Valdai Club expert Raghida Dergham. The event was attended by former Secretary General of the League of Arab States Amr Moussa, former Deputy Foreign Secretary of Britain Alistair Burt, academic director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Academician Vitaly Naumkin and Vice Admiral of the US Navy Robert Harward.

In the first part of the event, the participants briefly described the problem of stability in the world as a whole and in the regions. Amr Moussa called for a revival of the Non-Aligned Movement against the backdrop of the unfolding Cold War between the United States and China and on the creation of a regional humanitarian organisation in the Middle East. Alistair Burt lamented that the pandemic erupted at a difficult time for Europe, coinciding with an economic crisis, the problem of immigration and the drift of Eastern Europe towards authoritarianism, and raised the topic of the problems of youth suffering from unemployment and other problems affecting their physical and mental ill-being. Academician Naumkin emphasised that perhaps the traditional notions of stability should not be revised, although the coronavirus and the economic problems it generated will destabilse the situation and pointed out the importance of international compromises in the current situation. Admiral Harward noted that the crisis had paradoxically stabilised everything in a certain way, suspending international confrontations, and mentioned the possibility of a reset of international relations.

In the ensuing discussion on specifically regional issues, questions were raised about US-Iranian relations, the dynamics of the conflict in Syria and the role of external actors, the Libyan settlement, the situation in Lebanon, the danger of Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territories, the role of Russia in the Middle East and the situation with oil prices. The exchange of views was at times very sharp, but exceptionally correct and productive.