Wednesday June 16th, 2021 10am EST, 2pm GMT, 6pm Abu Dhabi, 5pm Beirut
Click on the image above to watch the entire session on YouTube.
On Wednesday, June 16th, 2021 Beirut Institute hosted e-Policy Circle 37 with HE Pekka Haavisto, Foreign Minister of Finland, HE Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, Foreign Minister of Sudan, HE Joey Hood, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Mr. Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.
This 37th episode of the e-Policy Circles is part of the run-up program to the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi Edition IV, under the theme Stability Redefined – Who Authors the Future?
This global conversation resulted in excellent points around the following issues, among many points:
On the Biden-Putin summit
I’m a little bit surprised by the level of excitement and even exultation vis-à-vis this meeting between Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden. Yes it’s important but in many comment it seems like now something will happen that will completely change the course of the world. It’s not the case. And certainly it’s much better to have this meeting especially given the very bad relationship between Russia and the US in recent years. But at the same time we should not expect too much.
The absolute success of the meeting as I see it as it would happen […] when Biden and Putin […] say that we entrusted our experts, generals, diplomats, to launch a comprehensive review of strategic stability issues to start this program to start this working group.
The meeting [between Americans and] Russians of course has disturbing elements. Of course there’s the Ukraine, there’s the illegal occupation of Crimea […] there is the Navalny human rights [… audio unclear] and I’m sure Biden will not avoid these difficult topics.
I think Vladimir Putin will be hearing from president Biden about what befits what behavior we find unacceptable and what we feel need to change but there are areas particularly in the Middle East where we can work together such as Syria.
Those are certainly some red lines in the Middle East. I think on the larger issues you see the headlines just like I do with regards to the hacking that takes place, we believe, from Russian territory and some of the other activities that are just not acceptable to the US and President Putin will hear all about those from President Biden.
Any understanding vis-à-vis how to have a more or less confrontational policy towards each other, more working together […] reflects in Africa, reflects in the Middle East. […] Of course if we add in China as a very important superpower as well with many competitions in the world any reaching out or reaching into mutual understanding will affect the rest of the world in a better position.
On the Vienna talks and the JCPOA
We think it was worth keeping the JCPOA alive during these years even if it has been criticized because now we see a momentum that maybe is bringing some interesting results.
When it comes to the Biden-Putin meeting of course the main issue [with regards to Iran] might be this nuclear deal. I would not insist that this is number 1 on Russian agenda […] Now this is very much a bilateral issue between Iran and the US.
On the conflict between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over the GERD dam
The competition over water resources in the world is very important and is getting bigger by the day […] There is an important mediation by the African Union. We the Sudanese and the Egyptians fought for it to be reinforced by the international community, that is the UN the EU and the US as well as South Africa.
There’s this long-term question on how the dam would operate so that it would be beneficial to each and every [party]. We are doing this diplomatic work with Egypt, with Ethiopia, with Sudan on this and we try to support African mediation as much as possible.
We understand the importance of the waters of the Nile to all 3 of those countries and we’re seeking a cooperation approach to support a comprehensive solution that’s acceptable to all parties and we will continue to do that to as quiet a diplomacy as we can manage.
On US diplomatic goals in the Middle East
President Biden is declaring that America is back. He is reinvigorating US diplomacy, rebuilding a lot with our partners and trying to help citizens around the world to realize their aspirations for a better future. Our engagement in the Middle East is anchored in those values.
Last month […] very quiet diplomacy helped bring about a ceasefire in Gaza after 11 days. Secretary Blinken’s visit to the region laid the foundation for our efforts to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians and to try to mobilize international support to rebuild. We believe Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, security, dignity, and prosperity.
On the crisis in Lebanon
As long as Lebanon’s leaders decide that they’re not going to make any changes there’s really nothing more that we as the international community can do. Except to make sure that the poor suffering Lebanese people can be fed and receive medicine. But real change is going to have to come from the Lebanese leaders themselves. I don’t know what’s going to motivate them.
The FBI reports on the Beirut blast are issues that are sometimes dealt with bilaterally and sometimes involve intelligence matters and so might not be something that we can share publicly but what I can say publicly is that the Lebanese people deserve a government that is going to implement the necessary reforms to rescue the economy and to get services to the people. And that is not something that anyone in the world can do except the leaders.