Munich Security Conference Agenda: ‘Westlessness’, MENA Conflicts, Iran & Coronavirus

Written by | Monday, February 17th, 2020

World leaders gathered for the annual Munich Security Conference in southern Germany on Friday (14 February), as its chairman, Wolfgang Ischinger, said he was “deeply troubled” by the “unforgivable failure” of the international community to resolve conflicts, notably in Syria and Libya. “We have more crises, more serious crises, more horrific events than one can actually imagine,” Ischinger said. World leaders and foreign ministers including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were due to attend. Among other guests expected in Munich were NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
The key theme of this year’s Munich Security Conference is the so-called ‘westlessness’, which refers to continued unease about the identity and purpose of the West. ‘Westlessness’ reflects a growing schism in transatlantic relations and the post-war order, as Donald Trump’s presidency pushes the US further from Europe. Another growing issue is common security in Europe, as the continent itself is fractured following Brexit and amid the growth of nationalist and illiberal movements. To that end, NATO allies are widely expected to find themselves in conflict during the conference, with the French leader pushing for the EU to become more independent from the US. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of the conference and they will likely discuss Moscow’s latest criticism of Ankara, after it said would use force against rebel groups violating a ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib.
Meanwhile, on his way to Munich, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was making headway with negotiations with the Taliban. The US said it had secured a seven-day reduction in violence in Afghanistan, while US President Donald Trump announced a peace accord was “very close.” President Trump’s peace plan for Palestine will likely lead to conflicts at this year’s meeting. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized the plan that is widely seen as openly favoring Israel, and called on EU foreign ministers to table their own ideas to promote peace. He said he was concerned that the current US plan could lead to the annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank, warning the EU would be forced to act against such serious violations of international law. However, Borrell also acknowledged that the EU lacked unity on the Middle East peace process.

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