ORIENT IV 2023: Conflict mediation and rapprochement across the MENA region

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Despite the tapestry of MENA region discord, glimpses of hope for peace-building emerge periodically. Most recently, signs of rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran – as mediated by China – have sparked cautious optimism, while Sudan has been the focus of US-Saudi-mediated talks and Yemen has been the target of collaborative Omani-Saudi and Chinese diplomatic efforts. Syria’s return to the Arab League adds another dimension to this landscape and the evolving regional order. Countries such as Libya and Tunisia are also grappling with their internal political settlements, endeavours in which supranational organisations such as the UN and the EU have attempted to play pivotal roles. In this publication, our authors delve into such overlapping threads, shedding light on the prospects and challenges – and failures – of conflict mediation and rapprochement across the MENA region.

Firstly, Simon Mabon outlines the complexity of conflict mediation, using the Saudi-Iranian rivalry as a case study. Ibrahim Galal Fakirah then shifts focus to external mediation in Yemen, while Youssef Mohammad Sawani analyses the failure of conflict-resolution efforts in Libya and Joseph Daher considers Syria’s return to the Arab League. After Umer Karim looks at the role that Gulf states are playing in the Sudan conflict, we return to the geopolitical relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as Amrita Jash and Nadeem Ahmed Moonakal examine the role of China as an international mediator in this context and Aditya Anshu sketches both the potential motivations behind and outcomes of a Saudi-Iranian bilateral rapprochement.