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China Puts Silk Road at Center of Mideast Development Prospects at Valdai Club Discussions

Feb. 28, 2016 (EIRNS)—The center of China’s strategy for the Middle East is economic development, within China’s overall "One Road, One Belt"—New Silk Road—initiative, Chinese scholar Wu Bingbing emphasized in his presentation to the Sixth Session of the Valdai Discussion Club’s Feb. 25-26 Moscow conference, "Middle East: From Violence to Security."

Scholars from Russia, Iran, India and the United States also participated in that session, dedicated to Middle East Cooperation and Development. Russian Ambassador Alexander Aksenyonok moderated the session, calling on the participants

"to reflect on the new equilibrium, which has developed in the region, and on what diplomatic and other steps are required from regional and global players," t

he Valdai Club summary reports.

Wu, a Senior Senior Research Fellow at Beijing University’s Institute for International and Strategic Studies, started from China’s "One Belt and One Road" and its "win-win" perspective, which he said puts economic development at the center, despite the importance of security issues, although he did not specify any specific reconstruction measures.

Included in his presentation was an attack on the regime change and "color revolution" strategies which only make things worse. Among the principles of Chinese policy towards the Arab region he identified, were a "no enemy policy" of "balanced relations with all countries in the region; security cooperation with Russia, the U.S., and the EU,

"on the condition, that it is within the United Nations framework"; and "support for regional collective security initiatives, since no external force can guarantee the absolute security of the Middle East."

Vitaly Naumkin, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, spoke of the Russian-American ceasefire agreement in Syria as an example of the great power cooperation necessary to resolve Middle East problems. To that end, Naumkin said that Russia

"made an important concession to the U.S., by agreeing to exclude from the peace process only ISIS, ‘al-Nusra’ and those organizations that are recognized as terrorist by the UN Security Council,"

Kayhan Barzegar, Director of Iran’s Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies, discussed Iran’s overall strategic philosophy on great power relations and relations with the immediate neighbors in the region, while Raman Kumaraswamy from the School of International Studies at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, outlined ideas on the possibilities for a Russia-Saudi Arabia rapprochement.

The American on this panel, Jon Alterman, Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’s Middle East Program, sounded a sour note, criticizing Russia’s airstrikes in Syria, and opposing them to China’s policy. A more positive approach, with a notable emphasis on resolving economic problems, was presented in the concluding session of the conference by former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, now at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. The Valdai Club reported that Kurtzer "expressed full solidarity with the thesis about the possibility and the need for coordinated actions to combat instability in the Middle East. According to him, the totality of the region’s problems, such as lack of security, mass unemployment, need to reform health and education, must be resolved simultaneously."

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