Let’s talk

Monday 18th September 2017

A few days ago I was at the Qatar ‘Global stability and security’ conference in London – organised by very credible offshore opposition to the present regime. It attracted huge international media and political interest.

As with all these events, you’re never really quite sure who’s who and who’s doing what to whom. I’m not an international politics expert but I guess the coverage and the sideline gossip and discussion was what it was : some enlightenment, and some confusion, jealousy and  some bitterness, and not least among what one senior Israeli general called  the  frenemies – the Middle East communities.

It’s not  a big doorstep issue for British politicians, but the concern worldwide  is that the richest nation in the world is distaining its partners in the stability-driven Gulf Cooperation Council and allying itself with Iran – which is perceived to be a threat to the West – and offering permanent hospitality to many undesirables infesting  the terrorist substructures of ISIS  Al Qaeda, for starters.

So far it’s a stand-off, and non negotiable.

Thus , an important question emerged – in sorting similar impenetrable and  impossible issues, who talks to whom?

Lord Paddy Ashdown told us that when he was international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina in that in-fought , vicious conflict he did the unforgivable and actually spoke to the various war dogs. I forget which. Eventually they bargained.  It worked at the time.

But the point is that sometimes you have to talk to the ‘enemy’ in the back channels -as the British government did with IRA – and then do it publicly. I’m guessing this is basic diplomacy. I hope so.

So the discussion  veered away for a while, from the Qatar crisis, to North Korea, another ‘rogue’ state and raging . Indeed much more noisily than  the rich Middle East monarchy.

One of the speakers,  the veteran USAF General Chuck Wald, with his experience of international hard bargaining, said that perhaps it might be worth thinking of some new approach.

His menu : an invitation for North Korea, to a high table – perhaps not the top table straight away – but an acknowledgment of the wish of the rest of the world’s civilised wish for inclusion. The US and China are too close. They both have a too obvious advantage in manipulating  North Korea’s future.

He said what we need is an Angela Merkel, or the Pope.

Neither so far have been involved.

You scoff, but wait a mo – so far both uninvolved  –  both serious international figures – relative neutrals talking to the enemy, rubbing shoulders with the frenemy.

Same extends to Qatar’s regime. Moderator required.





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