Peace chances for the Middle East have increased

Peace chances for the Middle East have increased

A ParsToday interview with Willy Wimmer

cc. The following interview with Willy Wimmer, former German State Secretary at the Ministry of Federal Defense, aired by the Iranian broadcaster ParsToday on 12 August, elucidates the complexity of the situation in the Middle East as well as the dangers and the opportunities of a new Middle East policy coordinated between the US and Russian Presidents.

“I have long believed that we are living in a very exciting time, with great dangers to world peace, but also with great opportunities affecting precisely this same world peace.”

ParsToday: Mr Wimmer, Russia’s Foreign Minister and its Army Chief of Staff recently were on a secret mission in Israel. Then they travelled on to Germany. The media reported little about the first travel station of these two Russian leaders. They talked about Syria; so much could be learned. I should like to hear your opinion about this.

Willy Wimmer: Mr Shahrokny, I have long believed that we are living in a very exciting time, with great dangers to world peace, but also with great opportunities affecting precisely this same world peace. And I have already, also publicly, expressed this opinion in connection with the election of the American President Trump. I was of this opinion already in autumn 2016, because – as the saying goes – you can put two and two together, even if you are not directly involved in the political process but only assess it attentively.
This my opinion is becoming more and more pronounced, above all because obviously, beyond political awareness, Russian President Putin and US President Trump are conducting such an in-depth dialogue on all issues that we are concerned about, that we may perceive also this visit in Israel of Foreign Minister Lavrov and Chief of Staff Gerasimov almost as normal in the context of the intense negotiations ongoing behind-the-scenes. I would be surprised, if that did not provide results.

What do you mean when you say that talks have been held behind the scenes?

Of course, you do hear a lot in such a situation, even if you do not hear everything. But that makes it clear that, on the one hand, we have normal government activity, and that the ministers involved, such as foreign and defense ministers and others, are fulfilling their international obligations.
But in connection with the situation in the Middle East, we also hear that informal discussion channels are being used intensively, in order to achieve results. For example, we have long since realised that for example President Trump’s son-in-law Mr Kushner has special duties in connection with the Near and Middle East. But we also hear about relevant initiatives coming from the leaders of the Russian Federation.
Against this background, I assume that, even with all the fuss we are experiencing, a peace-related solution in the Middle East may be the outcome. Of course that is a lot to hope, but there are reasons, for instance also this visit by Lavrov and Gerasimov to Berlin. After all, the reasons for such visits may be imagined. Usually they are related to international financial expenses. That would not be so very bad, if we could arrive at a situation where it would be possible for the Syrian migrants now in Germany to return to their home country. Of course, that would have to be financed.

Mr Wimmer, the two gentlemen from Russia were first in Israel and then in Germany. Did they have two different missions in the two countries, or was it one single mission?

I assume that there is really the one crucial question in connection with these travel efforts, namely that after decades of clashes in that part of the world – and the misery due to these conflicts is palpable – there will be an effort to come to an all-embracing peace solution in the Middle East, including all those countries which are now affected in one way or another.
You can see from every statement made by the American President Trump that he – I am going to say that in my own words now – is less concerned with the big war than with the big sales market for his industries. And I see all these efforts of talk and travel to come to a peace solution that deserves this name and will not blow up in our faces again at the next moment, against this background. However, in those states, as well as in the United States, there are also many forces that have no interest in such a solution.

Mr Wimmer, but what we are currently observing in the world is a little different from what you have just stated. We hear threats from Washington almost every day, I mean, we as Iranians, and the tone keeps getting more caustic.

I agree with your perception of public statements and statements made public, in particular those of President Trump. After all, in connection with questions of international security he behaves – if I may put it a little crudely – like a rowdy hooligan. I freely grant you that. That is something one might be seriously disturbed about.
On the other hand, we have had experiences with American presidents over the past few decades. They did not go on the rampage as American President Trump does. They started wars at once. And that is something that has not been done so far by US President Trump, despite all the danger that results from his approach to international security. I freely admit that I have questions concerning the predictability of both Presidents Putin and Trump, and that I currently see that also in Israel there are obviously further thoughts about a Greater Israel and about “setting fire” to the entire region, but also that these forces have experienced limitations in the person of Prime Minister Netanyahu. And that is something that I would assign to this area of hope. But you have described correctly the dangers that still exist.

Mr Wimmer, you have just touched on a problem that may also result in an escalation of the situation in the Middle East, namely the recent decision of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. That has only caused trouble within the Palestinians and in the Middle East, and that certainly does not contribute to peace in this region.

This is of course a very important point, because it must indeed be seen as giving an edge to the conflict, if by a decision that has been highly controversial in Israel itself, right up to the president, you tell 25% of your own population, which should and must be able to live with equal rights in this country, that they are second class citizens. Of course this will add to tensions, and that will be noticed in Israel as well.

Has the chance for peace in the Middle East region now receded into the distance?

These are perhaps the two different levels we are dealing with. For I have dealt with the question of whether there are international preconditions for finding a peace solution, and in my view they are better than ever. This concerns the global political situation and the regional political situation. Because of the fact that Iran and the Russian Federation have, on the basis of existing international law, sided with the legitimate Syrian government in connection with the civil war, there are now indeed opportunities for discussion and for action, which have not existed for decades. That this Iranian-Russian action has contributed substantially to the fact that the sky is no longer the limit for the Israeli-Americans, the British, French, and Saudis, and that, given all the problems, it is now obviously necessary to be prepared to reach a settlement. Otherwise global war will threaten, and obviously nobody wants that.

Mr Wimmer, so you are you optimistic concerning the chance for peace in the Middle East?

I am certain in a percentage of 70 to 30%. I am 70% inclined to think that the settlement will come, and for the other 30%, there is the uncertainty. But I believe that the Tehran-Moscow-Damascus Battle Line, which is complementary to Washington, strange as it may sound, will contribute to peace and lead to peace in the foreseeable future, unlike other efforts in recent decades. I assume that Presidents Putin and Trump want more than the Nobel Peace Prize, and so they should get it.

Thank you very much, Mr Wimmer, for these assessments.     •

Source: <link http: de news world-i42624-interview_mit_willy_wimmer external-link seite:>  of 12 August 2018 (with a slight linguistic adaptation); the interview was recorded on 28 July 2018.

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