Monday, May 29, 2006

Gulf nations will not survive war in Iran

20:49 | 24/ 05/ 2006

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) -- What do the Gulf nations think about the situation around Iran?

“Our region will not survive a new war, another aggravation of tensions,” said Qatar Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Their conversation took place during the 5th foreign ministers’ meeting of the intergovernmental forum devoted to dialog on cooperation in Asia. The forum took place in Doha, and was the last event for the Russian Foreign Minister’s first tour of the Arab Gulf nations – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.

In principle, political discussions are not in the forum’s traditions. Its main task is to discuss opportunities for Asian countries’ cooperation in specific fields, such as energy, finances, education, transportation, environmental protection, prevention and dealing with emergencies (the latter direction was suggested by Russia). However, considering the tense situation around Tehran, and the fact that success of many projects depends on regional stability, the participants in the forum could not ignore the Iranian problem, at least in the lobby and during press conferences, all the more so since many conferees are taking an active part in the Iranian negotiating process, including Russia, China, Gulf countries, and Iran itself.

Tehran is not yet a co-sponsor or leader of any of the forum’s 20 directions, but it is playing a key role in regional affairs. Implementation of specific projects, and participation in dialog on practical issues is a very effective instrument of diplomacy. The forum-initiated numerous business projects are the best alternative to a military scenario. By increasingly covering a military option, the media are creating the impression that the negotiating process is doomed.

On the eve of the recent meeting of negotiators on Iran in London, the Los Angeles Times wrote that the U.S. had embarked on the strategy of deterring Iran with the help of the Gulf nations. However, such articles only further provoke Tehran and exacerbate its already difficult relations with the Arab neighbors. Commenting on the Los Angeles Times publication at the request of the media, the Qatar Foreign Minister said: “We would welcome very much if the United States coordinated its actions with the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

One gets the impression that the Arab countries do not know whether they should be getting ready for war, or watch the negotiating process as idle onlookers. This is why they were eager to hear Russia’s opinion from its Foreign Minister – what should they expect? Nobody can answer this question precisely but during his tour of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, Sergey Lavrov made it clear that Moscow would do everything for the talks to continue.

The Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are enthusiastically backing the position of Russia, which believes that negotiations are the only way of settling the Iranian problem. In the event of a military scenario, these countries may suffer as much, or even more than Iran.

Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow was not considering any hypothetical scenarios, hoping that eventually the talks would produce results. Their success depends on two factors. The first one is an ability of the six negotiators – the EU3, Russia, China, and the U.S. – to preserve a common platform. The second factor is Tehran’s constructive position, which is indispensable. Neither factor is guaranteed in the least. But there is no other way out for the time being. A military scenario is too dangerous, which the situation in neighboring Iraq shows. Aware of this, Western and Eastern diplomats are emphasizing the need to continue the negotiations. Sometimes, it is hard to understand what stands behind some official statements. But decision-makers should remember what the Qatar Foreign minister said – the Gulf region will not survive another war


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