Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

Davos 2020: de-escalation in Iraq high on agenda

US President Donald Trump set to attend World Economic Forum as Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif cancels

The de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, will be high on the agenda at next week’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, which is the organisation’s 50th yearly gathering in Davos, Switzerland.

Taking part in these efforts will be regional leaders including Barham Salih, Iraq’s President and Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani, organisers said on Tuesday.

The United Nations special envoy for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, will also be in Davos.

Omar Al Razzaz, Prime Minister of Jordan and Kais Saied, the new president of Tunisia, are attending too. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh will also be there.

Amid tensions with the United States following the killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad, Iran is not expected to be represented next week at the meeting.

“We have to understand the cancellation from the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif against a backdrop of the uncertainty now in the region and what is unfolding in Iran,” Borge Brende, the Forum’s president said on Tuesday.

Iranians have staged protests over the military's shooting down of a Ukrainian plane and the government’s attempt to conceal its role.

“I think we have a very good group from the region that will be able to discuss de-escalation, especially [it is] important now to see a de-escalation in Iraq.”

However, US President Donald Trump will be one of 53 heads of state in Davos.

The American delegation will be “strong” and includes Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Mr Brende said. Its presence “is crucial both on trade, economic growth and geopolitical issues”.

Also on the agenda are Syria and Libya with both of the UN’s special envoys to these countries, Geir Pederson and Ghassan Salame, in Davos.

Also expected to be there will be Germany’s Angela Merkel, Han Zheng, China’s Vice-Premier, Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy, and Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be among 34 heads of international organisations. Britain’s Prince Charles will also attend.

Almost 1,700 business leaders, including the chief executives of eight of the world’s largest companies, will be there. Governments from 85 countries are represented in Davos. Civil society including labour unions will also attend. As will governors of Central Banks and about 30 trade ministers.

Mr Brende also said that “business leaders are keen to be involved” in supporting efforts to de-escalate.

They know that “without peace and reconciliation there can be no growth”.

“Co-operation is what we need more of in this polarised world,” said Mr Brende, a former Norwegian foreign minister. “We will try to make this the decade of delivery, on the Paris agreement, on the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Greta Thunberg is expected to be among climate activists present in Davos to put pressure on political and business leaders to scale back investments in fossil fuels.

“The world is in a state of emergency and the window to act is closing fast,” said Forum founder Professor Klaus Schwab on Tuesday, referencing climate change and the Australian bushfires. Davos 2020 “will be a do-shop not a talk-shop”, he pledged.

The meeting’s theme, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”, seeks to find a way forward for governments and companies to benefit from more equitable globalised trade while also making progress on meeting sustainable development goals.

Key areas of interest include “avoiding a technology war”, higher economic inclusion, protecting biodiversity, reskilling more than one billion people over the next decade and conflict resolution in “global hotspots”.

Major initiatives will be unveiled next week include an open source digital platform that allows people to engage behind the UN SDGs and the planting of 1 trillion trees by the end of the decade.

Updated: January 20, 2020 09:46 AM

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