Oman and Jordan push peace, regional stability at Bahrain conference

Jordan indicated that Israel should show flexibility and willingness to embrace discussions about peace with Saudi Arabia.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell speak to the media after their meeting in Amman, Jordan, February 2, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell speak to the media after their meeting in Amman, Jordan, February 2, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)
Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi said that Jordan has paid attention to the recent Abraham Accords and that in the Jordanian view “success very much depends on what Israel does next.”
Israel and the new peace agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were a central point of discussion by Middle East foreign ministers who attended the International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue Conference which is taking place from December 4 to 6.  
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the Kingdom was open to normalization with Israel if a Palestinian State was created based on the 2002 Saudi peace initiative. Jordan indicated that Israel should show flexibility and willingness to embrace these discussions about peace. This shows that across the region many countries want Israel to do something in exchange for the recent peace deals. The UAE said that it went forward with normalization because it wanted to prevent annexation. Abu Dhabi has also indicated in a recent interview with Jamal al-Musharakh, director of the UAE Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry’s Policy Planning Department. He said that it was important to see progress on the Palestinian issue.  
The IISS Manama Dialogue conference is an important forum for gathering Middle East officials, diplomats and opinion makers, as well as people from across the world, to discuss global and regional problems. The conference took place this year at the Ritz Carlton in Manama. The hotel is the first to offer kosher cuisine in Bahrain. Israelis also participated at the conference this year. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo address the confab virtually on Friday. Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is scheduled to speak. Saturday included important discussions, some of which focused on Israel. This shows how much Israel has become less of a taboo subject in the region since the 2018 Manama conference. That year’s event came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit too Oman. Oman has pushed for more acceptance of Israel. Oman also works closely with Iran, which makes it interesting. Meanwhile Kuwait is pushing to end the Gulf crises between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Trump administration insider Jared Kushner was recently in Doha.  
This means what happens in Manama matters and important signals are being sent across the region. Meanwhile Oman’s foreign minister talked about peace between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatig bin Rashid al-Zayani said that for too long the Middle East has been seen globally as a “problem area” but he said it was important to change that perception. Al-Zayani was in Israel in mid-November and a trade delegation led by the Minister of Trade from Bahrain also came to Israel in late November.  
Saudi Arabia said that it was essential to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.  
Overall many of the countries spoke about the importance of regional security and peace. This could mean peace between Israel and the Palestinians or an opening to more normalization or peace between various countries in the region, such as resolving the Gulf crisis and not further inflaming tensions with Iran. The goal of many of the foreign ministers who gathered, those who tend to be close to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is to use events like this to push for stability and peace. This generally means considering how stability could be extended to Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and other places so extremism cannot put down roots.  
For instance on Saturday the Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein spoke about how Iraq was trying to get back to being a strong state with a rule of law. This is undermined by pro-Iranian militias, although he didn’t mentioned this issue. The pro-Iranian militias, called Hashd al-Shaabi, are organized under the Popular Mobilization Units, which a group of paramilitary brigades that are officially part of the Iraqi government since 2018. They have launched rocket attacks on US forces and often insulted the Prime Minister of Iraq. Recently a new crisis erupted in Anbar province on the border with Syria over attempts by a local commander to remove Hashd posters. The US recently reduced its number of diplomats in Iraq, which is perceived to be in response to Iran tensions. Israel has also warned against travel to the Kurdish region of Iraq.