Hague warns of a ‘perfect storm of crises’

December 14, 2012

William Hague

A perfect storm of crises will hit the Middle East next year if the world fails to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Iranian nuclear programme, the British foreign secretary has warned.

“We have to achieve a return-to-negotiations on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before time runs out,” said William Hague. “That is why we in the UK are urging the United States to lead a new initiative to restart negotiations as a matter of urgency, backed by a more active role for European nations. If progress is not made soon, the two-state solution could be made impossible by changes on the ground including illegal colony-building,” he said in a speech he delivered at the Manama Dialogue conference.

Hague said that conditions have to be created for a return to negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The conditions will be created “through a credible diplomatic offer to Iran and the prospect of increasing sanctions and isolation if talks do not take place and Iran does not take concrete steps to address the concern of the international community”.

“This is the only way to avert the risk of a military confrontation to the region, which could have calamitous consequences. If we do not succeed in these objectives, then 2013 could be a dark year in the Middle East, with a perfect storm of crises converging, including a worsening crisis in Syria,” Hague warned.

The UK foreign secretary said all countries in the region had a common interest in defusing sectarian tensions, and resisting any temptation to inflame them.

“The dangers of stoking such tensions are all too apparent in Syria,” he said. “Twenty years ago, on European soil we saw the appalling consequences of ethnic war, when what started as external aggression in Bosnia mutated into internal ethnic conflict, leading to death and displacement on a truly horrific scale. In Syria, today with each week that passes, the deeper the wounds inflicted on its society the harder it will be to unite different communities and the greater the risk is of the disintegration of the country,” he said.

A political transition is desperately needed, based on the Geneva principles, Hague said.

“This would be a realistic and pragmatic basis for ending the crisis. To be successful, it will require Syrian opposition groups to reassure all religious and ethnic communities that their rights will be respected, and that they have nothing to fear from a political transition,” he said.

“But it will also need the full engagement of the UN Security Council. I urge Russia and China to recognise that President [Bashar] Al Assad cannot conceivably cling to power or recover legitimacy in the eyes of the country, and therefore to work with us and with Special Envoy [Lakhdar] Brahimi to achieve a political end to the violence. The alternative of drawn-out military conflict would lead to the loss of many more lives. It could lead to a power-vacuum in Syria and the collapse of the country, triggering a wider regional crisis. And it would allow new terrorist groups to emerge in the heart of the Middle East. We need peace-making now to avert a sectarian hell in Syria,” he said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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