The recent 13 June mine explosions on two Japanese oil tankers, the Kohaka Courageous and the Front Altair in the Gulf of Oman highlight the need for negotiations in good faith. There is a need for a regional focus as the zones of tension and the States involved overlap. The war in Yemen continues with its very negative impact on the civilian populations. The fighting in parts of Syria continue with no government of national reconciliation in sight. Iraq remains unstable, and the policy of Turkey towards the Kurds increases the instability. U.S. policy toward Iran adds to the tensions.
The mission of the Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe to Tehran may have opened some windows of opportunity, but his main focus is the protection of Japanese interests, especially freedom of navigation which the attacks on the Japanese-owned tankers highlighted.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has proposed a “Regional Dialogue Forum” but the details are vague. No dialogue is possible without wide participation. The United Nations Security Council seems unable to act; Chinese and Russian views for the moment are too distant from those of the U.S.A. England, and France. It is difficult for the U.N. Secretary-General to act as a mediator without some agreement within the Security Council.
In theory, the Uniting for Peace mechanism should permit the U.N. General Assembly to act when the Security Council is unable to do so. However, the large and diverse membership of the current General Assembly has made the Uniting for Peace approach no longer operative as when first put into place in the early 1950s.
Recently, we have seen the growth of popular movements focused on climate change when governments were acting too slowly or not acting at all. There is as yet no such popular demonstrations for Middle East negotiations, but the dangers of the tensions slipping out of the control of governments are real. Thus we should look at what Track II- non-governmental initiatives are possible.
Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens.