Calls for global unity dominate security forum in Manama

Challenges emerging from climate change, terrorism and energy crisis must push states to act quickly, officials say

Delegates take part in the IISS Manama Dialogue in Bahrain. AFP
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Arab and western officials urged greater international co-operation on Saturday, to confront challenges posed by climate change, terrorism, conflicts and the energy crisis.

Ministers and policy makers were attending the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain, where policies on security were being discussed.

“Let us join forces for our collective security. Gulf security matters to Europe, as Europe’s security matters to the Gulf,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her opening speech.

Ms von der Leyen said the EU was ready to do its part in strengthening economic and security engagement with the region.

“The world needs a stronger security architecture, against the spread of chaos. We know this in Europe and it matters also here in the Gulf,” she said.

The EU leader’s remarks were echoed by Gulf Co-operation Council Secretary General Nayef Al Hajraf.

“Working together is a must, to address such challenges, we are much stronger and better off if we start to work together to maximise our resilience,” he said.

Mr Al Hajraf said crises in the Middle East spanned from Yemen to Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon and Palestine. Beyond the region he spoke about the Russia-Ukraine war, cyber security and terrorist threats, as well as climate change.

“Restoring peace, security and prosperity in the Middle East requires respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs,"he said. "Working together is a must."

Arab and Gulf states have voiced concerns about the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on the international community, including rising food prices that have affected the region.

Developing countries have the highest exposure to regional conflicts, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al Khuraiji said.

“Geopolitical conflicts are not limited to the warring parties, they have wide-ranging consequences for food and energy security, with developing countries most exposed,” Mr Al Khuraiji said.

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Al Sabah said that "no region is immune to the consequences of conflict".

"Energy prices march forward to the beat of war drums. It is precisely for this reason that de-escalation and dialogue are vital," Sheikh Salem said.

"As energy markets brace for what is to come, as conflicts intensify, and a global recession looms, let us unite. For it is through our friendships that we flourish, and through our partnerships that we prosper," Sheikh Salem said.

Norway's Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said her country was ready to become a hub for mediation and de-escalation of conflicts.

"Peace is within our self interest," she said.

"Norway can never force anyone through military means. But we can facilitate talks. For us, that’s a long-term investment, aimed at contributing to a more stable world," Ms Huitfeldt said.

Consequences of conflicts in the region span far beyond the Middle East, she said.

"Just as conflicts in Europe have consequences far beyond Europe. In Europe we have taken peace almost for granted since 1945. Not anymore," said the minister.

Russia's war in Ukraine is felt not only in Europe but "everywhere", she said.

"In the Middle East it affects markets, energy prices and food security. But the consequences of this war could also be an incentive for more regional co-operation."

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Russia's war was a concern for the whole world.

"Russia’s war of aggression is truly a global issue. It is responsible for the current food crisis. It is using food dependencies to further its military goals," Mr Haavisto said.

Moscow has chosen to attack not only Ukraine, but also the entire international order, he said.

On Iran's regional threat, the US Central Command Chief, Gen Michael Kurilla, said more than 100 unmanned vessels would be deployed in Gulf waters by next year to starve off maritime threats.

The announcement in Bahrain came after Israel and the US blamed Iran for a drone strike off the coast of Oman this week that hit a tanker operated by an Israeli-owned company.

The attack, which coincided with heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, was the latest in a string of disruptions in Gulf waters that are a key route for world energy supplies.

"By this time next year, Task Force 59 will bring together a fleet of over 100 unmanned surface and subsurface vessels operating together, communicating together and providing maritime domain awareness," General Kurilla said.

Updated: November 19, 2022, 6:57 PM