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The School of International Regional Studies is a research and educational centre seeking to revive international regional studies as an academic discipline in Russia. The department’s world-class professors train the next generation of regional studies specialists while developing an increasingly prestigious research school.
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The topic of the meeting was: “New Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Trends in the Middle East in the Context of the Recurrent Crises”.
The meeting was moderated by Dr. Vera Vishnyakova, Head of the School of International Regional Studies, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, HSE University.
In his speech, Dr. Alexander Kuznetsov emphasized such important issue as the growth of diplomatic activity in the Middle East over the past year. The intensification of diplomatic contacts in the region can be divided into three key processes. Firstly, the long-awaited reconciliation that took place in January, 2021 between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Secondly, during the outgoing year, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been carrying out a negotiation process on the normalization of their bilateral relations. Thirdly, the speaker highlighted such aspect as Syria's attempts to get out of diplomatic isolation, as well as the assistance provided to the country in this process by some Arab states.
According to Dr. Alexander Kuznetsov, reconciliation between the two Arab monarchies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been achieved due to the following reasons. First of all, it has been influenced by the election of Joe Biden as the new president of the United States, after which Washington has changed its priorities and has begun to reduce its presence in the Middle East. The second factor is connected with a significant weakening of the Qatar-backed Muslim Brotherhood movement in the region, so the policy of this state no longer poses such a threat to Saudi Arabia as it used to.
The speaker stressed that the process of settling Iranian-Saudi relations began this year due to the fact that Riyadh lacked support from the USA in the security sphere, as well as due to the failure of its military campaign in Yemen, which resulted in open armed resistance from the Houthis. In the course of normalizing the contacts with Saudi Arabia, Iran, in turn, seeks to secure its territory and provide strategic depth to the process. Nevertheless, Dr. Alexander Kuznetsov noted that the negotiations between the two countries have not yet led to serious results.
Covering such issue as the efforts to restore the diplomatic position of Syria in the Middle East, the speaker pointed out the change factor in the policy of some Arab states towards the administration of Bashar al-Assad as the decisive one in this issue. In particular, the Jordanian, or Arab, initiative for Syrian settlement, launched in October 2021 and supported by the United Arab Emirates, was mentioned.
Summing up the results in his report, Dr. Alexander Kuznetsov concluded that the negotiation process to resolve conflicts in the Middle East is at its initial stage. In this regard, it is necessary to create a comprehensive security architecture in the region. So, for example, in order to resolve differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran, an authoritative mediator, which is currently absent, is needed.