Russia and China may need to clarify their security initiatives

December 25, 2020 - 12:8

TEHRAN – As tensions soared in the region over the past months, Russia and China presented initiatives to maintain stability and deescalate tensions in the Persian Gulf but they have not provided details about their initiatives, a move that deprived observers and politicians in the region from thoroughly examining the Russian and Chinese initiatives.

This week, the foreign ministers of Russia and China once again presented their own initiatives to reduce tensions in the Persian Gulf region. Although their initiatives had already been presented in the past months, they remain obscure. Pundits find it difficult to study them due to a lack of details about the initiatives.

During a meeting with his Qatari counterpart on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined the need to form the Russian “concept of collective security,” an initiative that was first presented to the United Nations on July 23, 2019.

“We discussed the situation in the [Persian] Gulf and stressed the importance of forming the concept of collective security for the benefit of the parties in the region,” Aljazeera quoted Lavrov as saying on Wednesday.

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani welcomed the initiative and called for dialogue in the region.

“We call for dialogue between the [Persian] Gulf countries and Iran, and we welcome any initiatives that make the region more stable,” Al-Thani remarked.

Russia presented its initiative to the UN last year as tensions soared in the region following the unilateral withdrawal of U.S. President Donald Trump from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). At that time, the Russian initiative was distributed as an official document approved by the United Nations. Russia’s state news agency TASS published some of the initiative’s contents shortly after it was distributed in the UN.

According to TASS, Russia’s concept of collective security calls for creating a security system that would enhance consultations between countries in the region and outside of it.

“Practical work on launching the process of creating a security system in the Persian Gulf may be started by holding bilateral and multilateral consultations between interested parties, including countries both within the region and outside of it, UN Security Council, LAS [League of Arab States], OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation], GCC [Persian Gulf Cooperation Council],” the document said.

In a letter to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, Russia said that it is “ready for cooperation with all interested parties to implement this and other constructive proposals.”

But since July, the Russian initiative was all but put on the shelf. No serious diplomatic efforts have been made to implement it nor were its details made public.

China, which has recently presented its own initiative, welcomed the Russian one, underlining the need to maintain peace and stability in the region.

“We welcome the Russian initiative,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in late July, adding, “Peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region are of utmost importance to ensure safety and development of the region and the world as a whole.”

China itself has presented a similar, but vaguer, initiative to help defuse tensions in the region. During a ministerial meeting of the JCPOA parties on Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a 4-point proposal to revive the nuclear deal. The fourth point is to establish a multilateral dialogue platform in the Persian Gulf region that aims to build consensus among regional countries on security issues.

In a Twitter thread on Tuesday, Chunying said the Chinese foreign minister made a 4-point proposal during the JCPOA ministerial meeting that include steps to revive the nuclear deal and promote dialogue in the region.

“Wang Yi made a 4-point proposal: 1. Make relentless efforts to uphold the JCPOA and firmly against the maximum pressure. 2. Push for an early and unconditional U.S. return to the JCPOA. The U.S. should lift sanctions on Iran and on third-party entities and individuals. 3. Resolve the compliance issues fairly and impartially. 4. Properly handle regional security issues. China has proposed to establish a multilateral dialogue platform in the [Persian] Gulf region to start an inclusive dialogue process to build consensus on regional security issues through equal consultation and incremental progress,” the spokeswoman said.

The Chinese initiative was first presented during a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to China in October. The Chinese foreign ministry said at the time that China proposed to “build a regional multilateral dialogue platform with equal participation of all stakeholders.” The platform, China said, would enhance mutual understanding through dialogue and explore political and diplomatic solutions to security issues in the region.

There are no details available on the Chinese initiative. But it seems that it is similar to the Russian one because both seek to reduce tensions through promoting dialogue among the Persian Gulf region’s countries. However, it’s still not clear yet how they would promote dialogue in a region where tensions run high. Therefore, Russia and China may need to elaborate on their initiatives so that pundits can study them in a more accurate way.

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