Fruitful discussions on the wider Middle East: The Munich Security Conference (MSC) Core Group meets in Doha

The opening session of the 4th MSC Core Group Meeting in Doha with (from left) Khalid Mohamed Al-Attiyah, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Qatar Skeikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Prime Minister of Qatar and the chairman of the MSC, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar.
Focus on conflicts in the Arab world: first Munich Security Conference meeting in Doha. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar.
Tawakkul Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate from Yemen urged the international criminal court to charge the Assad regime with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar.

After gathering in Washington, DC (2009), Moscow (2010), and Beijing (2011), the MSC Core Group held its 4th meeting in Doha, Qatar, on 22 May 2013.

Hosted by the chairman of the MSC, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, and under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Qatar, H.E. Skeikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, 50 senior decision makers and representatives from government, business and civil society from around the world focused on the current developments in the region. The topics ranged from the situations in Syria and Iran to the implications of changing energy realities and the state of regional cooperation.

In his opening speech, Qatar’s Prime Minister Skeikh Al Thani underlined the gravity of the Syrian challenge. “The situation in Syria is deeply disturbing - if we do not act to prevent the ongoing escalation, the whole region risks being pulled into unpredictable instability. While I am not necessarily advocating military action, inaction is not an option”.

Against the background of recent military gains by forces loyal to Syrian President Assad, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger quoting “Assad must go”, as expressed by the United Nations peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, emphasized that the slogan, cannot be a substitute for a political solution. Expressing skepticism about the outcome of the international conference on Syria proposed by the USA and Russia, Ischinger and others emphasized the need for very careful preparation including setting up a high-level contact group based on the model of the groups set up to resolve the Balkan wars. Together with the establishment of a EU Special Representative on Syria, such a group could help bring all international stakeholders back to the table and help reverse the current slide toward a proxy war.

The Foreign Minister of Libya, Mohamed Abdul Aziz expressed his concern about the fact that the regime in Damascus still receives support from Iran and Russia. “As long as the imbalance on the ground will continue and Iran and Russia support the Assad regime, the conflict won't come to an end.” Tawakkul Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate from Yemen added: “This is not a civil war, as it is unfair to make parties equal and not to make a difference between victim and perpetrator”. She urged the international criminal court to charge the Assad regime with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The former US National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley called for quick and decisive action in support of the opposition, greater coordination among the supporting nations and the provision of arms and training to opposition forces.

Talking about the instable situation in his country, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz emphasized the importance of national reconciliation for his country. He furthermore urged the participants to take North Africa very seriously because of its direct links to global security. However, Abdul Aziz beamed with confidence: “Doors are now open for partnership and regional cooperation”. Former NATO Secretary General and EU High Representative Javier Solana agreed with this outlook and said: “We have to bring the Arab spring to a good end”.

Less optimism dominated the debate on the peace process between Israel and Palestine. “The protagonists seem to be the problem because they don't want to resolve the conflict”, Solana expressed his disappointment about the failure of both parties to make progress towards the two-state solution.

Other topics discussed included the increasing role of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, global energy and resource security in light of the US shale gas bonanza as well as Iran's disputed nuclear program. Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Bin Adullah Al Mahmoud concluded his remarks by acknowledging the eminent importance of all these topics for his country and his hope that the MSC Core Group would soon return to Doha. “We need your ideas and your thoughts to tackle the problems in the region.”

In his conclusion the MSC Chairman, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger stated: “We had an open and trustful debate with compelling opinions on the current situation in the Middle East and the Gulf Region. The debate in Doha has underlined, that it is crucial for the West to engage in an active and sustained dialogue with the region. For example, we have heard a number of important voices from the Arab world who would constructively support a renewal peace process between Israel and Palestine. These are chances that must not be squandered. These are conversations that need to be made”.

Among the participants were, among others:

Skeikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Prime Minister of Qatar; Amhad Bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud, Deputy Prime Minister of the Council of Minister’s Affairs of Qatar; Khalid Mohamed Al-Attiyah, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Qatar; Tawakkul Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate; Mohamed Emhemed Abdul Aziz, Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Javier Solana, former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and former Secretary General of NATO, Anne Ruth Herkes, German State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economy and Technology; Ruprecht Polenz, Member of the German Bundestag and Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Jane Harman, former member of the U.S. Congress and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Stephen Hadley, former U.S. National Security Advisor; Dr. Sami Al-Faraj, President, Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, Kuwait City; Prof. Dr. Uzi Arad, Former National Security Advisor and Head of the National Security Council of the State of Israel; Nikolaus von Bomhard, Chairman Munich Re and Nemir Kirdar, Chairman Investcorp.

About the Munich Security Conference Core Group Meeting

The “Munich Security Conference Core Group Meeting” has been taking place annually since 2009. It is as a small, high-ranking meeting in the context of the Munich Security Conference (MSC). The first meeting took place in Washington in November 2009, followed by a second meeting in Moscow in October 2010 and finally a third meeting in Beijing in November 2011. The idea is to focus on new regional issues and invite a number of distinguished and high-ranking participants to changing capitals and give them the opportunity to confidentially discuss current international security policy issues and develop sustainable solutions.

You can find the press release in Arabic here.

22. Mai 2013, von MSC