What's In Blue

Posted Mon 19 Oct 2020

Debate on “Comprehensive Review of the Situation in the Persian Gulf Region”

Tomorrow (20 October), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level debate via videoconference under the agenda item “Maintenance of international peace and security” on: “Comprehensive review of the situation in the Persian Gulf region”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to preside. Secretary-General António Guterres; Robert Malley, the President and CEO of International Crisis Group; and Vitaly Naumkin, Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are the anticipated briefers.

This meeting is a signature event of Russia’s October presidency of the Council. It builds on a vision for collective security in the Persian Gulf that it shared with members of the Security Council and the wider UN membership through a letter to the Secretary-General in July 2019 (S/2019/604). According to the letter, key principles of this security system for the Gulf would, among other things, be based on: countering terrorism, including by mobilising public opinion in Muslim and other countries against this threat; committing to international law and Security Council resolutions; respecting the security interests of regional and other key actors in the Persian Gulf; and making and carrying out decisions through multilateral approaches. In addition to countering international terrorism, priority issues to be tackled are crises in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, as well as the implementation of the agreements with respect to Iran’s nuclear programme. Ultimately, according to the letter, the long-term objective would be to create an Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Persian Gulf that includes countries in the region, Russia, China, the US, the EU, and India—as well as other interested actors who would be associate members or observers. Also in July 2019, the Russian Foreign Ministry presented its proposal in Moscow to representatives of Arab states, Iran, Turkey, the other permanent members of the Security Council, the EU, the Arab League, and the BRICS countries (comprising, in addition to Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa) accredited in Moscow.

Russia has continued to promote its collective security vision for the region in recent months. This August, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed that a summit of the permanent members of the Security Council be convened, with the participation of Germany and Iran, to generate confidence-building mechanisms in the Persian Gulf area.

In preparation for tomorrow’s meeting, Russia has circulated a concept paper to help guide the discussion. It outlines objectives for the meeting, including: to consider the key factors that characterise the current situation in the Persian Gulf; to ascertain the shared views among states in the region towards potential normalisation of the situation there; to identify common priorities that partners from outside the region can coalesce around to help Gulf countries to strike agreements; to discuss ways to reduce tensions in the Persian Gulf; and to explore ideas for collective security mechanisms in the region.

Questions posed for discussion in the concept note include:

  • What factors hinder the normalisation of relations between the countries in the region?
  • How can we overcome a situation in which unilateral steps prevail over collective action?
  • What political and practical measures would help to reduce mistrust among the states in the region?
  • Is it possible to develop a set of confidence-building measures using one of the crisis situations in the region as an example, which will be further used on a common regional platform?
  • How can the UN be involved in creating a non-conflict atmosphere, encouraging regional actors to engage in dialogue, mediating efforts, and guaranteeing respect for future agreements?
  • What are the ways to further protect the inviolability of the key principles of national sovereignty, as well as integrity and unity of the states’ territories?

In tomorrow’s meeting, members will most likely make an effort to consider cross-cutting issues and common security challenges—such as the threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction—and discuss ways to promote cooperation in the Persian Gulf area and to contribute more effectively to regional peace and security.  Nonetheless, in spite of this broad focus, some members may choose to share their views on specific country situations. For example, there could be expressions of support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear programme from those that support the JCPOA and criticism of it from the US, which opposes the agreement and has tended to emphasise Iran’s destablising role in the region.