World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Third Actors in the Middle East: from facilitators to mediators (475) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: William Bache (Training Officer, Afghan National Police, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan)

Paper presenter: Alla Zakharchenko (Associate Professor-Odessa Mechnikov National University, Ukraine), “Problems of External Mediation in the Arab-Israeli Conflict in the Beginning of the XXI Century”
Recent crises in the Arab-Israeli conflict: the rise of Hamas, the war in Lebanon, operation Cast Lead and many others - have refocused attention toward the involvement of the external powers in its resolution. In the literature, there are two traditional approaches to this problem. The first one focuses on the idea that achievement of a lasting peace in the Middle East ultimately depends on the parties directly involved whereas the pressure from the external powers is only an obstacle for reaching an agreement. The second approach stresses that today the Arab-Israeli conflict requires an active mediation, and prospects to resume negotiations between two parties look dim unless third party gets involved. My study goes beyond this “bipolar” debate and aims to be much more sophisticated by formulating the following research question: what are the roots of low mediating effectiveness of the external powers at the current stage of the Arab-Israeli conflict? Nowadays external mediation is constrained by a number of important factors. Although members of the International Quartet - the United States, the European Union and Russia - have reached a common position on ways to find a solution to the conflict (the “Road map” plan), the gap between them remains wide. The USA, the EU and Russia are not equal in their economic and political resources. Each of them has its own (often competitive) interests in the region and history of relationships with conflicting parties. The fact that Americans are far more supportive and protective of Israel has prompted a general Arab distrust of the USA as unbiased mediator. Simultaneously, because of European and Russian pro-Arab sentiments Israel continues to respond negatively to their initiatives, even seemingly sensible ones. In addition to this, there are still a chasm inside the International Quartet on how to understand the roots of the conflict and its major problems: Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and many others. The best example of serious contradictions between external mediators was Russian invitation of leaders of Hamas to Moscow in 2006, which was condemned by the USA and the EU. How will the ups and downs of agreements/disagreements inside the International Quartet evolve in the coming years and how it will affect the process of resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict? The paper presents the main possible scenarios based on the qualitative methodology which involves textual analysis of documents and works of American, European and Russian political scientists.

Paper presenter: David B. Roberts (PhD Candidate-University of Durham, UK), “Qatar: Perfectly positioned to act as Iranian-US intermediary?”
This paper argues that Qatar is well placed to act as an intermediary between America and Iran in their stand-off over Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. In recent years Qatar has established a reputation as a conflict mediator in the region. In Lebanon in 2008 and in Darfur in 2010, Qatar succeeded where many failed in bringing warring parties to the negotiating table and facilitating a mediated solution. Arguably Qatar has the best relations of any GCC state with Iran. This stems largely from necessity as Qatar and Iran share the world’s largest gas field. Qatar was the first and last GCC state to invite Iran to the annual GCC meeting back in 2007. Additionally, Qatar has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah, including supporting them financially, which further encourages support in Tehran. In a similar manner, Qatar’s relatively advanced relations with Israel engender American support. However, it is America’s housing of their largest and most important regional military base in Doha that cements their relationship. There are also a myriad of ‘softer’ links fostered through the establishment of several American universities in Qatar’s flagship Education City and Qatar’s ever-growing role as a financial force investing in blue-chip US and European companies. Furthermore, practically speaking, Qatar’s experience as well as their deep and trusted relations with both sides could prove useful. Their relatively young Western-educated and Western-orientated leadership, cognisant of centuries of dealings with Persians, could contribute into translating America’s proposals, demands and red-lines into a language that Iran might find more acceptable. As in previous negotiations, Qatar could use its financial largesse to grease the wheels of peace. Specifically, Qatar could use its shared gas field with Iran to share technology as a carrot for easily visible and immediate progress. Whilst the dangers of pursuing this policy namely Arab antagonism towards closer Iranian relations and the risk of being blamed for failure must not be underemphasized, there is a very real danger of significant consequences were Qatar to do nothing. Moreover, the kudos associated with seeking and achieving such a diplomatic coup would be dramatic and would certainly appeal to Qatar’s thirst for the international lime-light. Nine months research in Doha including interviews with policy practitioners, diplomats and regional experts, along with input from WOCMES learned audience will contribute to the formulation of practical policy suggestions.

Paper presenter: Katherine Harbord (Teaching Fellow-University of Bath, UK), “TRCs in a Middle Eastern Context: sulha and the peace process”
Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) have been an established part of the peace-building experience in many parts of the world. However, there has, as yet, been no systematic survey and analysis of the possibilities for TRCs in a Middle Eastern context, nor any serious scholarly attempt to integrate them into the milieu of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This paper begins by surveying past TRCs through comparative analysis, and demonstrates, through integrating these experiences with theories of conflict transformation and peace-building, that the application of TRCs is much broader than traditionally assumed. It demonstrates that TRCs also have a role to play in peace-making, as well as peace-building, and that such commissions have the potential to play an integral part in future efforts to reach a negotiated settlement in this arena of conflict. There has been a significant amount of research into the use of competing Israeli and Palestinian narratives, and a number of scholars have been working to try to facilitate the sharing of alternative historical narratives, to form a nexus. This paper demonstrates that TRCs can and should constitute the next logical step in the process, allowing these ideas to move out of the scholarly particularist realm and into the everyday lives of ordinary people. Through an examination of the traditional sulha mediation process, parallels are drawn with the TRC approach. Through case-study analysis, the paper demonstrates that not only is there a precedent for truth and reconciliation without the notion of blame, but also that sulha is still used regularly and with great effect in Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas. The ideas of justice that result from sulha, it is argued, have a wider application in a TRC context, and, as such, constitute a real possibility for transforming the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and enabling formerly non-negotiable issues to be addressed and resolved.