Between the 10th – 12th of November, the working group of the Helsinki Policy Forum met in the city of Van, eastern Turkey, to continue discussions on how peace and stability in the region can be achieved. Crisis and conflict continue to stifle peace, security and development across the Gulf-MENA region. Since the last Helsinki Policy Forum in Helsinki, May 2017, fragile regional dynamics have been further tested. Regional developments do not happen in isolation and have enormous implications for European, and global, security.

This meeting of the Forum was attended and addressed by Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, Mr Ömer Çelik. At the public session of the meeting, Mr Çelik gave a speech titled “Opportunities and Challenges in Our Region: Need For a Sustainable Framework Based On Regional Ownership”, which explored several themes including the impact of the refugee crisis upon Turkey, the need for international co-ordination to tackle terrorist movements, and the risks posed by the fragmentation of states – both in the region and in Europe. The Minister recognised that Turkey’s security is tied to the success of its neighbours, noting: “If your neighbouring country is poor and not secure, such conditions will have a negative effect on peace and security at home.”  Accordingly, he suggested there was a need for new regional approaches to enhance stability and prevent conflicts, endorsing the approach of the Helsinki Policy Forum.

Broader discussions at the meeting acknowledged that crises in the region were intensifying and emerging in new locations. Challenges are both urgent, such as the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen,  and chronic – including the need for economic reforms, the growing gap between youth and their governments, and the enduring weakness of institutions. These challenges threaten the security of all but are beyond the ability of any one country to address and therefore require both regional and international co-operation.