St Petersburg hosts the 3rd International Expert Forum Russia – Middle East

From 28 to 29 September, St Peterburg held the 3rd International Expert Forum Russia – Middle East, organized by the Yevgeny Primakov Centre for International Cooperation and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. This event was attended by leading experts, diplomats and political figures from Russia, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen.

Welcome remarks to the participants at the Forum’s opening ceremony were delivered by Vasily Kuznetsov, Deputy Head of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies, and Victoria Karslieva, Executive Director of the Yevgeny Primakov Centre,

“Unbiased opinions, multifaceted approaches, as well as the work to shape public opinion are the main tasks that face the expert community today. Thanks to high-quality expertise, we can contribute to the development of relations at the state level, building a trust-based dialogue, mutually beneficial cooperation, and a just world order,” Victoria Karslieva stressed.

According to Vasily Kuznetsov, today Middle Eastern states need new political models, which would facilitate the regional development. He paid special attention to the topic of resorting to the civilizational approach in foreign policy,

“The civilizational approach is no longer a theoretical abstraction but a practical guide for political decision-making. It was proposed 30 years ago by Samuel Huntington, but was not adopted. Now we see that Russia, China and India are putting the civilizational approach as a counterbalance to the West.”

The first day of the Forum consisted of two sessions. The first one was dedicated to the Middle East and Northern Africa in the context of global recession and the formation of a new economic order. During this meeting, the experts examined aspects of economic cooperation, the evolution of relations at the intraregional and international levels, the diversification of the geopolitical course, and the issues of retrospective approach to the directions of further development.

Non-proliferation aspects in the Middle East became the main topic of the second session. According to the experts who participated in the meeting, it is necessary to focus on what motivation the countries of the Middle East have for creating various types of WMD and what the prospects are of the regional states to accede to the NPT and the OPCW convention.

During the second working day, the experts discussed non-military aspects of security in the region, conflict resolution in Yemen, prospects of the political development of Iraq, fleshing out the strategic partnership between Russia and Algeria, and the features of Russian-Iranian relations.

The Forum also offered a cultural program for its participants. They met Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage Museum, who told them about the collection dedicated to Islamic art. He paid special attention to the Hermitage cultural diplomacy being led in the Middle East. In addition to this, the experts went on a tour round the museum, where guides led them through the main halls and showed them the main attractions of the imperial palace.